It is distressing to see the single-minded obsession of the House of Representatives to impeach Commission on Elections ( Comelec) Chairman Andy Bautista putting all the other pressing issues staring at us in the face to the back burner.
Bautista already tendered his resignation last Oct. 11 but the House majority still decided to impeach the Comelec Chief on the same day.
It will be recalled that the House Committee on Justice initially dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against Bautista for being insufficient in form.
According to the Committee chaired by Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, the panel declared the impeachment complaint insufficient in form because of its defective verification, a basis used in previous decisions by the committee.
However, voting 137-75, the House of Representatives overturned the Justice Committee’s recommendation that dismissed the complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Representative Jing Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
Many are puzzled with this decision. Why impeach somebody who has already resigned? What for?
Many believe that an impeachment trial in the Senate will just be a waste of time and taxpayers money since President Duterte has already accepted Bautista’s resignation.
With the severe problems affecting the country today, the war on drugs for instance, concerned citizens would think Congress would be working double-time to come up with legislative solutions to these problems.
Another major problem is the spiraling cost of electricity rates and increasing petroleum products now wreaking havoc on the household budget of ordinary consumers.
The continuing Peso depreciation against the US dollar is another concern.
We look to Congress for creative ideas but we find nothing there.
Instead, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his cohorts in the House seems to be fixated on the impeachment of Bautista and other constitutional officers who are not aligned politically with the present dispensation.
Just listen to the Speaker and his lackeys, talk at length about their up-to-the minute reactions to the latest developments in the impeachment process as if it were the end-all and be-all of the duties and functions of Congress.
Because of this, we are afraid that the passage of two major bills—the proposed 2018 national budget and the tax reform package which provides downward adjustments in personal income- and corporate income-tax rates—would take a backseat once the Senate start hearing the impeachment case against Bautista.
Apart from these, the Legislative-Executive Development Council (LEDAC) priority list includes bills on increased military salary, pension for uniformed personnel and the condonation of land amortization and arrears on interest payments.
Congress has gone on a break until Nov. 13 and we are sure that the legislative schedule in the Senate will seriously be affected if and when the senators still decide to hear Bautista’s case.
Meantime, beleaguered transport groups are increasingly restive against the planned jeepney modernization program of the government.
Some continue to agitate for fare hikes. If granted, a fare increase will likely set off a chain reaction.
Prices of basic commodities will rise and labor groups are expected to follow with their own call for an increase in the daily minimum wage.
With the Department of Energy waving a white flag of surrender and saying it is helpless to do anything about the oil price hikes dictated upon by the world market, has there been any action on the part of Congress to come up with legislation to mitigate the burden to the public?
Good thing we have seasoned economists like Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in President Duterte’s cabinet.
We recall that prior to his appointment as budget chief of the Duterte administration, he proposed that government reduce the value-added-tax (VAT) on petroleum products.
He suggest that government adopt a sliding rate for VAT every time the price of oil in the world market goes up to a certain level.
After all, the lone beneficiary from the increase in oil prices is the government, which finds its coffers getting fatter from the VAT windfall due to higher oil prices.
This way, the burden of escalating world oil prices would be shared between government and the public.
Diokno finished his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. He holds a Master of Arts in Political Economy from the Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in Economics from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, USA.
Now that he is one of the economic managers of the present administration, we hope he can convince Congress to legislate something based on his novel idea.