The Lower House Is “Lower” In More Ways Than One

For Friday/ December 16, 2011
Good Morning Philippines

The Lower House, in lightning speed, impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona early this week upon orders of President Aquino, unprecedented in the Philippines for a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Most of the signatories to the Articles of Impeachment were allegedly not allowed to read the complaint and simply followed what was asked of them by PNoy, and signed away without bothering to peruse the documents. This is not surprising considering the last administration had the same iron grip hold over the lower house. What is surprising, or maybe not, is PNoy (chief engineer of “daang matuwid”) is now doing what he criticized in GMA regarding the use or abuse of Congress as a personal tool in legitimizing whatever the President wants done, brazenly or otherwise. True, there is nothing illegal in the way the impeachment was carried out but as far as Congress is concerned, the elected Representatives did themselves and their institution another disservice in their obsequiousness and blind obedience, but we won’t count on that giving them sleepless nights. In fact, the most discomfort they probably felt from their shameless action was their pot-bellies grumbled in hunger due to the five hours it took to formalize the impeachment, scandalously haste by any standards.
PNoy, a non-lawyer, has accused the Chief Justice of being a stumbling block in his crusade against corruption as can supposedly be gleaned from the decisions of the Supreme Court that prevent him from “nailing” GMA, an obsession of his since taking power. The President claims the people are “behind him” in his assault on the High Court Justices, most of whom are GMA appointees. By cleverly lumping Corona and GMA in one bag, the people are probably, indeed, supportive of him but more so against GMA, still the “kiss of death,” rather than against Corona who is not all that well known, to the masses at least.

To claim to know why a Justice of the Supreme Court decides on a case the way he does is to attribute to oneself supernatural powers – how else? Of course, it is natural for anyone appointed to the stratospheric position of Justice of the Supreme Court of the land to be grateful to the appointing power, that much even a grade-schooler would know. But to what degree and manner this gratitude will play out during the term of a Supreme Court Justice will, firstly, not be uniform between all of them; and, secondly, it cannot be presumed by anyone to result in making biased decisions to favor the appointing power. It is just as easy to make conclusions about the actions taken by the President and say that his reason for ravaging the Supreme Court is in retaliation to the Supreme Court decision, with finality, ordering PNoy’s family to distribute their land in Hacienda Luisita, a 6,000 hectare property the President grew up in and the symbol of their family’s wealth and power. One could even add that it would also serve to put fear in the Justices so they will know to concur with his family on the price the government “must” pay them as “just compensation” for their land when the time comes to determine that. Of course, that is just as presumptuous, if not preposterous, as claiming to know the motives of the Justices. But what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander and it’s not difficult to imagine why losing one’s ancestral land is a pretty compelling reason to be very pissed at who caused it and that the only remaining recourse for that situation is to ensure that the “just compensation” is to the liking of the owners. The actual amount could literally be anywhere from zero to P5B Pesos. The latter amount, if you divide that among, say, 30 grandchildren, comes out to about One Hundred Sixty Six Million Pesos each or $4M (each!!) – no P-Nuts for anyone that could be watching the impeachment trial from the Senate’s plenary hall gallery.



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2 responses to “The Lower House Is “Lower” In More Ways Than One

  1. edvicious

    Thanks very much for the wonderfully informative background. I guess we’ll just have to explain that they’re called the lower house in reference to their “low life or “low sense of morality.” To sign documents, historical and of great importance, without first reading them is enough example of that, which is not to say the Chief Justice is innocent of the charges though for now, he remains presumed innocent.

  2. I remember that in the 1990’s there were not too few congressmen and congresswomen (as the Lower House member preferred to be called) who were dead serious in creating a law to disallow the reference to the House of Representatives as the Lower House.

    Literally interpreting the age-old parliamentary term, they feel that they are not “low” as in low life or low sense of morality and those kinds of low; also they felt that they should be regarded as co-equal or even higher in stature as the members of the Upper House, the Senate. They added that because of their large number it is only natural to have more crooks in the House of Representatives than in the Senate because of mathematical proportions.

    Totally bereft of grey matter, these honorable solons suggested that they be called the Bigger House or the Larger House but never the Lower House.

    Originating in Europe, the term “Lower House” has been the term used by many parliaments all over the world to describe the specific body or aggrupation of legislators elected in the different political (geographical) subdivisions of the state. In theory, the members of the Lower House generally have more contact, sensitivity and feel for the aspirations, needs and nuances of their consituencies and as such, in many countries in the world, the Lower House has weilded more power than the Upper House.

    However, during the era when the monarchy, assisted by the aristocracy was the central source of political power, the Upper House – usually composed of the landed and moneyed aristocracy close to the monarch – had greater political power than the Lower House . However, there were many instances in the history of parliamentary government that the aristocracy were at odds with the crown. Remnants of this system can be gleaned in the political history of Japan and the United Kingdom.

    In the United Kingdom, since the turn of the 20th century all prime ministers and cabinet were members of the House of Commons – the Lower House of the British government as opposed to the House of Lords – the Upper House where members acquire their position through hereditary succession or by special appointment by the Crown but in reality have no real political power. The same holds true in the Japanese Diet – the Lower House of Japan where the prime minister is elected from and from whom the prime minister likewise choose his cabinet.

    In the United States, a former colony of Great Britain – their founding fathers patterned its parliamentary structure with its mother country in having both a House of Representatives (House of Commons) and a Senate (House of Lords) because they felt that each House could check and balance out each other and would prevent possible legislative abuse or abuses of individual House. They borrowed the organizational or structural function of having two Houses but differed entirely from the political function, so to speak. Further, the United States has a federal type of government and it was also structurally sound to delegate to the Federal Congress the task of focusing on federal legislation and to have the state-wide congresses on the needs of individual states.

    This information should be basic to all our honorable congressmen and congresswomen.

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