I couldn’t help swearing aloud when I saw the pictures of senators wearing armbands pop up in our newspaper’s photo gallery. I thought we had reached a new low of legislative futility last Sunday, during the Marine standoff in Fort Bonifacio. But today’s photo opportunity at the Senate made me realize that that three-day-old record had just been broken.
Let me explain. I thought one of the saddest things about last Sunday’s standoff was Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s pathetic appeal, broadcast on air, but addressed to no one in particular, that President Arroyo step down from office. (Okay, there were actually two things that day that saddened me, but let’s take this one at a time.) If Magsaysay thought that a mutiny-in-the-making in the Marines, deep inside a military camp, could strike the President as reason to even consider resigning, then this Magsaysay is not our guy (with apologies to his late, lamented father). I thought that his presence there, and that of Serge Osmena and Ping Lacson too, was proof that today’s Senate is being badly outclassed and outfought.
Did they actually expect that, by showing up at Marine headquarters, they were helping push GMA from office? More to the point, did they think they were doing what senators in their position ought to be doing, to fight an unpopular, but always-underestimated president? If they think that the way to fight GMA and her Marcosian declaration of a state of national emergency is to mass inside the Marine compound, then we’re sunk.
Today’s black-armband photo opportunity in the Senate is an even more dismaying image of senatorial futility. Okay, we get it. It’s a photo opportunity. Pia Cayetano, smiling before the cameras as she transforms her armband into protest headgear, looks fetching. Jinggoy Estrada tying the black cloth around his mother’s head: That looks positively touching. And so on, and so forth. But it is, I am afraid, only the ultimately feckless politics of cute.
Why wear black armbands when you can pass a strongly worded resolution condemning Proclamation 1017? Why wear protest gear when you can push through with another hearing on the putrid fertilizer scam? (Magsaysay canceled the last one, because he didn’t want his resource persons to be arrested on the strength of Proclamation 1017.) Why wear special symbols when you can extend protective Senate custody to the resource persons in danger of a warrantless arrest? In a word, why act as protesters when you can serve as senators?
PS. The other thing that saddened me last Sunday was the idea of Cory Aquino insisting on "saying a prayer" inside the Marine compound. Inside that same compound, one of the leaders of the bloodiest coup attempt she faced was threatening to redefine, yet again, the chain of command. Cory’s lonely mission became even lonelier when the country’s newest Cardinal issued a text message (!) to remind people he had not called for people power, and enjoining them not to be deceived. I found all of that deeply, unbearably, poignant.