There’s a cardinal principle in opinion-writing, and it’s not to call people names. You may not call a crook a crook, a murderer a murderer, a rapist a rapist or a thief a thief unless the courts have so declared. Under this principle you may not call an ass an ass or a dolt with the IQ of a doorknob a dolt either.

It’s not just because the libel laws forbid it. It’s also because name-calling is a logical fallacy that by itself proves nothing. It’s also unprofessional, and contrary to journalism ethics. It may also be insulting to door knobs to compare congressmen with them, or to that patient and noble beast, the ass.

But certain names do fit. Their own statements, their behavior whether current or past-these constitute the details that can only be summed up in a name. What else is George W. Bush, for example, except the world’s most dangerous buffoon? Thus the predicament of commentators when confronted by the totally outrageous behavior of the creatures known as politicians who infest the Philippine lower chamber of horrors.

By now most Filipinos from all walks of life including those who didn’t use to care–they’re just waiting for the next plane out of this airport known as the Philippines–have run out of names to call the majority congressmen who, defying their own rules, not to mention the Constitution, tried to constitute themselves into a constituent assembly without the Senate.

“Crooks” won’t do it. While many of them probably are, what they did last Thursday was beyond crookedness and even insulting to your honestly crooked cell-phone snatcher. “Asses” doesn’t fit either because it just doesn’t quite convey the mendacity, the moral bankruptcy, the authoritarian, self-serving, absolutely contemptible mindset and behavior that drive these so-called representatives of the people.

I would in fact object to Renato Constantino Jr.’s description, during the Friday press conference of De Venecia and company, of the congressional majority as “totally bereft of principles,” and “without shame”. These just don’t do it, RC, and I’m afraid that Philippine politicians may have damaged the English language even more than usual (they offend it daily while Congress is in session) in that there just doesn’t seem to be enough words in it to describe them and their behavior.

But if no single word in the English language can possibly describe what these worthies did last Thursday and had been doing before that-groveling and scraping before their Malacanang patron, and doing her bidding so they can all remain cozily in power–no single word can adequately describe what they said afterwards either.

Announcing that the House majority is backing off from the appropriately named “con-ass” in favor of an equally well-named “con-con,” House Speaker De Venecia claimed that it wasn’t because of the immense, intense public outrage that had compelled his Malacanang co-conspirator to cancel the Asean Leaders’ Summit in Cebu. After all, De Venecia said, “the Filipino people [are clamoring] for constitutional reforms to provide the lasting structures for political stability and economic growth…” and the House was only heeding that clamor.

By refusing to go along–meaning not agreeing with the House prescription that a constituent assembly may be convened on the basis of a vote by two-thirds of the House and Senate membership voting together rather than separately–by refusing to go along, it’s the Senate that’s obstructing those noble aims, De Venecia continued.

De Venecia thus gave the Senate an ultimatum, urging it to call for elections to a constitutional convention to be held together with the May 2007 elections–which incidentally he and his cohorts had earlier planned to scuttle. Otherwise, he said, the House would proceed with its constituent assembly scheme to keep themselves in power forever and ever.

De Venecia called his ultimatum “a challenge” to the Senate even as he denied that the present Malacanang informal settler had instructed him to abandon the constituent assembly option. The call for a Con-Con was “solely the initiative of Congress.”

This tangled web of semantic deceit is unlikely to convince most Filipinos to trust De Venecia and company any more than they trust Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It’s evident to others more intelligent than the House majority (and that seems to include everyone else) that this cabal thinks that not only will a con-con be more palatable to most Filipinos than a con-ass, it also thinks that it’’s the idea of postponing the elections people are outraged about.

Twice wrong, and in a row too. As usual, these “reformists” and “representatives of the people” haven’t a clue as to the contempt with which the rest of country holds them. Everyone except Norberto Gonzales’ Partido Sosyalista Demokratiko ng Pilipinas knows that a con-con won’t guarantee that the same creatures who infest the House, or their wives, sons, daughters, etc. won’t be “elected” delegates to it, given the millions they and their Malacanang patron have at their disposal, not to mention the Comelec’s inability to add a simple row of numbers. A con-con under the auspices of these same creatures will be a double con through and through.

It wasn’t the postponement of the elections alone that triggered the vast outrage now rippling through the archipelago either, although that’s bad enough. What did was the shameless, abhorrent, brazen, despicable, wicked, vile, loathsome, malicious, self-serving, appalling, odious, repulsive, disgusting, detestable, depraved, base, nasty, insufferable, repellent, putrid, sickening attempt to trample on the Constitution for totally self-serving ends last Thursday by alleged “lawmakers”. And that’s putting it mildly.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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