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Money behind minority row

If people are wondering why some members of Congress are fighting tooth and nail over the minority position at the House of Representatives, the answer is now apparent.

The minority is supposed to fiscalize the majority in Congress, a position that is needed to check and balance power in the legislature. For a while, I thought those fighting for the position have taken this goal seriously, for the sake of democracy, and to prevent tyranny in Congress.

There is Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who is clinging to the post like a leech. And then there are Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo and party list Rep. Eugene de Vera laying claim to the minority leadership as well. But Suarez remains in the post because it was not declared vacant when Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became speaker of the House.

Quimbo has with him a 24-member wing of the opposition Liberal Party and the seven-member Makabayan bloc. Meanwhile, De Vera’s camp counts among its members ousted Speaker Alvarez, Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas and their allies.

Santa Banana, read this and know why exactly they are fighting over the House minority post. According to records, a minority leader is allotted P500,000 every month and another P500,000 on a quarterly basis compared to the entitlement of each House member in the minority getting an additional P50,000 monthly on top of his or her P200,000 monthly salary.

This is of course aside from maintenance and other operating expenses allocated to the district or party-list office.

The minority leader then gets the lump sum allocation on behalf of his colleagues. He distributes this equally among them.

The minority leader’s office gets the same amount of maintenance and operating expenses that his counterpart in the majority get. They say the amount is substantial, owing to the crucial job as House whip of the 292-man chamber.

In addition to all these, the minority leader and his members are given allowance automatically every time Congress goes on recess. He is also entitled to a separate office space from that of his district, complete with a separate set of 10 staff members from plantilla or career positions. During this period, my gulay, minority members are given P150,000 each during congressional breaks.

Take note of this: The opposition bloc can also tap the services of so-called consultants whose fees can go as high as P50,000 monthly for each, depending on expertise. But unlike the Speaker and the Senate President, minority leaders don’t get intelligence funds—if that is any consolation.

Santa Banana, add to all this the travel perks to and from their home districts and travels abroad, depending how close these House members are to the Speaker. And if a member of the House gets appointed to a powerful commission like the Commission on Appointments, he or she gets own entitlements aside from sitting in all House committees, which is mandatory under House rules. For this, there is also compensation.

We can just imagine how much a minority leader gets in take home pay. This is like winning the lottery—at the expense of taxpayers!

* * *

If there is one thing I like about the Duterte administration, it is that it occasionally gives us something to laugh about.

There is for instance the plan of Malacañang to have communications assistant secretary Mocha Uson to lead the information campaign to make people aware of the federal form of government that the Duterte administration is pushing.

This is funny but I am not laughing. Uson is the last person to educate the people about the proposed change in the system of government.

For one thing, if I were a member of the consultative commission, I would be insulted. Uson is not a lawyer and she cannot discern the legal and constitutional ramifications of a federal system of government. My gulay, she is not even a college graduate!

In connection with the plan to have Uson become a resource person in the Senate to convince the Senate to move for federalism, that’s a big insult on them. What will Uson do? Will she bring her group of half-naked girls and gyrate before the senators?

What the Duterte administration needs in connection with its campaign to make people aware of federalism is somebody people can respect and believe in. Certainly not a sex guru.

I still wonder what love potion Mocha made her bosses drink. They still consider her a plus factor for the administration.

At least she gives us a few laughs now and then.

* * *

Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who is also a senator of the republic, wants the death penalty restored by yearend. His statements run counter to that of Pope Francis that the death penalty violates the dignity and inviolability of the life of a person.

We have this born-again senator and pastor who claims that the Bible allows the death penalty.

I am sure Pope Francis knows of whereof he speaks. Unless of course, Christians like Pacquiao are reading a different Bible.

As a Catholic, I believe that whatever the Pope says. He is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth.

Pacquiao presumes too much that the Senate would go for him and his Bible. He also enumerates the heinous crimes he believes should be covered.

There is no empirical evidence that it can be a deterrent to crime. What will deter crime is swift justice.

* * *

The signing into law of a single and streamlined Identification Card is the culmination of years waiting for one ID card that can provide for all services from both the private and public sector.

The new ID will contain full name, sex, birth date, blood type, place of birth, marital status and photo.

Militant have long opposed a national ID because they say it invades privacy, Santa Banana, even government agencies contain most, if not all, the contents of the national ID. So what is the beef?

In my seven decades as a journalist I have been to many countries and almost all of them have one single ID that their residents carry and use for all transactions.

* * *

The Court of Appeals’ decision to dismiss the Securities and Exchange Commission’s charge that international businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin committed insider trading in connection Philex shares some years ago is a vindication for Bobby.

Ongpin was persecuted during the incumbency of former President Benigno Aquino III just because he was friends with former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. But is that a crime?

Bobby was my student in Ateneo in the early 1950s. Congratulations, Bobby.

Topics: House of Representatives , Securities and Exchange Commission , Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin , Benigno Aquino III , Danilo Suarez , Rodrigo Duterte , Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
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