Senate of the Philippines

[OPINION] Whispers in the Senate hearing

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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[OPINION] Whispers in the Senate hearing
Parliamentary courtesy – shorthand for fear of political vendetta – would have been unnecessary if both the interrogated vice president and the legislators do not lie. But of course they both do.

Stella Quimbo says “parliamentary courtesy” – the latest flavor-of-the-month alibi of Congress – is an old concept. “It has been a long-standing tradition” to extend it to the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President. Stuttering, she said, “It is basically not to embarrass them.”

And there’s the rub.

It is not parliamentary courtesy. It is fear. In the mindset of legislators, Sara Duterte is poised to be the next president. Any congressman or senator will be foolhardy to embarrass her or else it will invite the infamous Duterte vendetta, which can be very vicious. The fallout will be a congressman, congresswoman, or senator running for reelection stricken out either from campaign funding support or simply from sample ballots of the presidential candidate. It is a “courtesy” that is transactional to ensure their self-preservation, not to reinforce democratic institutions.

Of course Stella Quimbo lied. There was no line item budget for confidential funds for the Office of the VP for 2022. That budget was approved during the term of the previous vice president who did not have a single allocation for confidential or intelligence funds in all of her six years in office. Leni Robredo also did not steal.

And so that parliamentary courtesy – shorthand for fear of political vendetta – would have been unnecessary if both the interrogated vice president and the legislators do not lie. But of course they both do.

The statesman who comes to Congress to be grilled by legislators for her use of public funds can withstand any intense questioning if one does not lie. Statesmanship is a stuff born out of public service capable of accounting for every single centavo of public money used. Such a statesman can freely expound on the nitty-gritty of one’s official functions because every aspect of her programs all contribute to the common good.

Sara Duterte does not have that qualification. But does she even bother? For one who merely inherited political power that vilified critical citizenship from their constituents in a city that chose to be meek on their every shenanigan, Sara hardly had any training in good governance. And yet her family continues to rule. That is the strength that she stands on.

She has no scruples to stutter before the public. She has no scruples to repeat her catchall euphemisms – “safe, secure and successful” implementation of her programs even if she cannot define what that means because she does not know what they mean. She does not have the scruples to bring her subalterns to her Senate hearings who whisper answers to her on what to say. Scruples: conscience.

Grilled by Senator Risa Hontiveros on her confidential funds, Sara had whispering subalterns to her left and right. So much uproar has arisen from her confidential funds, but the public has missed out one very important detail: Sara cannot withstand legislative scrutiny without the aid of her whispering coaches.

The reader is invited to watch till the end here below:

One question Senator Hontiveros posed was on the matter of the mandate of the OVP vis-à-vis confidential funds. Sara said her office’s constitutional mandate was to act as, notice her word used – “benchwarmer” for the President. Why would bench warming need confidential funds? She failed to connect.

Pressed by the senator what exactly her projects are that need confidential funds, she enumerated them, mentioning tree planting, feeding, disaster operations, and free bus rides, among others. In the process of answering, a lady to her right (wearing pearl earrings) kept on coaching her non-stop. In addition, a man to her left kept on nodding, indicating he also was a coach. Readers can help identify the names of these coaches.

Sara needs coaches to justify her request for confidential funds. And for that she gets P500 million. We are far from assured that her confidential funds will not go to confidential stealing.

Somebody wrote on one’s social media wall that bears repeating:

“A lot of Filipinos weren’t surprised. We were surprised that the rest were not surprised. Even being dumbfounded is surprising.”

“A lady, with only a last name as credential, rising to the top of the political hierarchy – wielding power over everyone. A lady who dismisses integrity as a work ethic, shuns discussions or debates; only responds to pre-screened questions. A lady whose unremarkable work experience is weighed down by missing SALNs, ghost employees, cover-ups, COA flag downs, unexplained fund allocation.”

“Even those were not surprising. Because nowadays, infamy is a badge of honor.”

Infamy is not her only badge of honor. Having no conscience is. Sara is not fit to sit even for a second in any public office in the land. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Thanks to writer ANTONIO J. MONTALVAN II for his article, “Whispers in the Senate Hearing.” From his article, we learn more about the behavior of VP Sara Duterte during the Senate hearing like how dependent she was on her “whisperers.” I addition, the said “parliamentary courtesy” is not only a way of skipping discussion on a proposed budget (a sign of lack of transparency) but it also shows “fear” (a sign of political patronage). Viewing the included video, it seems that VP Sara Duterte still has a “hangover” of her term as Mayor of Davao City, which indicates her penchant on the Executive Power (especially as future President of the Philippine Republic). Mr. Montalvan may dislike VP Sara as a government official, but the “bobotantes” just do not care as long as they will get their share of the Political Patronage system.

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