Thursday, November 20, 2008

Adminstration or Opposition?

While plying the stretch of South Superhighway this morning on the way to work, I was listening to the interview of a bright, young senator by an equally bright, young radio anchor-commentator. They were discussing the recent leadership change in the Senate, trying to dissect the rhyme and reason for the change and the prospects that the change will bring to the Upper Chamber, particularly the committee chairmanships.

While many said the Change brought by Obama should be emulated by Filipinos, the change in the senate was met with skepticism. Of course, that skepticism is due to the circumstances surrounding the change such as moves to amend the constitution, ongoing investigations, new appointments in the Supreme Court, etc. Because of that skepticism, who gets to be hailed as chairman of what committee becomes a concern.

The interview focused on who will get to be designated as chair of the powerful Blue Ribbon Committee, formerly chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. The committee is mandated to investigate anomalies in government, as what it is doing now with regard to the fertilizer fund scam, the euro generals and other controversies in the past. The committee is seen as the people’s tool against the corrupt and the means to look into shenanigans in government.

The interviewer asked the interviewee who he thinks should be the chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee. The anchor-commentator pointedly asked whether an administration or opposition senator should be the chair. The articulate senator replied that the former chair should be retained because the committee, given its mandate, should be given to someone who is affiliated with the opposition to serve as check and balance to the administration.

I think everyone will agree with the reply of the senator. That the ideal situation is that an opposition senator should be the chair. Indeed, it will ensure that the administration will always be on their toes, since the opposition will be empowered to investigate activities of the government.

But as for me, I don’t necessarily agree.

While I believe in a strong opposition, I also believe that the basis for who will chair the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, or any investigative body for that matter, should not be political affiliation or leanings. The criteria should not be whether the prospective chair is pro-administration or with the opposition, but whether the person is fair, bold and independent in thought and action when it comes to issues of anomalies in government.

We must all be reminded that the Blue Ribbon Committee is supposed to look into anomalies in government, no matter who perpetrated it. And we must be reminded that anomalies in government may be committed not just by administration officials but even by those from the opposition. Corruption knows no political boundaries. It is an affliction that affects anyone who falls into temptation, whether administration or opposition, male or female, educated and uneducated, even the religious or atheist.

What should matter is not the chair’s political loyalty but the faithfulness to the mandate and responsibility of the position. Because even if an opposition chair is put into place, it does not make him or her immune from the possibility of protecting fellow opposition officials if the situation calls for it.

To the question of who should be designated as chair, I would have answered differently. I would have set aside the criteria of political leaning (whether opposition or administration) but rather focus on the prospective chair’s independence of thought and integrity in the performance of the job.

Of course, it may be said that it is difficult to judge a person before he assumes the position, but at least by having that standard or criteria stated, the chair would have an idea what standard he or she should be living up to. If we settle with the idea that the criteria should be based on whether the chair is from the opposition or administration, then the danger that the chair will focus on anomalies of “the other side” and turn a blind eye to those from his or her own political color will remain.

Someone said that Leadership is a lonely place. Somehow, integrity seems to be in the same location. But I think we have chance to stand by both if we choose to. What say you, Philippines?

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