Settling scores, getting even?

Tit for tat. A counter-punch for every jab. A kickback for every step forward?

Settling scores. Getting even. Putting one over the other.

And staying on top of the heap no matter how battered, beaten, and bruised.

Is this all what democracy—at least our brand or kind—has to offer?

Surely, there must be a lot more to it than all these.

Because the people simply deserve more from their Representatives to Congress. Are senators and congressmen/women up to their jobs? Are they meeting or exceeding the expectations of the electorate?

As holders and wielders of delegated power, are they still committed or faithful to their obligation to uphold and promote the general welfare?

The most basic and all-important work of Congress is to cobble together the annual budget of the government aka to General Appropriations Act.

Almost all other congressional undertakings are insignificant.

Considering their performance in terms of crafting the government’s budgetary program for the current fiscal year, how should the people rate them?

Can they still stand tall in the face of the fiscal standoff?

So far, our lawmakers only have arguments in defense of or against certain provisions, re-allocations or re-alignments for certain favored lawmakers or preferred projects.

Ped Xing is lost in the nomenclature of the Legislature as the debate rages.  

Sewing up the national purse is a joint congressional effort which a divided Legislative chamber can never accomplish.

Which seems to be the case in the brouhaha between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

This after senators accused the House leadership of realigning some P73-billion in lump sum funds after the bicameral conference committee had passed a reconciled version of this year’s national budget.

House leaders insisted the chamber only “itemized” the said lump sum funds to make them more transparent and easier to make officials account for their use as the entire appropriation remains the same except it had been divided per congressional district.

In the meeting called by President Rodrigo Duterte between House and Senate leaders last Wednesday to resolve the issue, Duterte declared two important points. First, he won’t sign a 2019 national budget law with no signature from Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who had made such threat unless the House reverts back to the lump sum nature of the appropriations the congressional leadership decided to “itemize.” Second, the President rejected a suggestion by Sen. Panfilo Lacson that the House revert to the lump sum funds that the bicam passed and just let the President divide its allocation, with the Chief Executive insisting he does not want to be involved in deciding who and which areas in the country should get the funds from the lump sum appropriation since it was the job of the two chambers of Congress to make such allocations and not the President’s.

There appears to be very clear messages in the meeting called by the President to resolve this budget impasse. Based on reports from those who were present in the meeting between Duterte and the Senate and House leaders, it was Lacson who took the lead in pressing the Senate position, with Senate President Sotto merely echoing Lacson’s statements.

Rep. Anthony Bravo of the COOP-NATCO Partylist group claimed it was only natural for Lacson to lead the charge against the House because of his long-time feud with former President and now Speaker GMA. This latest attack on the House leadership and GMA is part of his revenge, it seems.

Also, Ping is attacking GMA and the House of Representatives to hide his own pork barrel fund amounting to P50 billion, Bravo added. Of course, Lacson has denied Bravo’s accusation. No one admits pursuing his bête noire, anyway.

Sources close to the Senate leadership said Sotto had no option but to support Lacson, as he needed Lacson’s vote to keep his seat as President of the Senate. One of the senators who won in 2016 who would stay till 2022, Lacson’s vote for the Senate presidency is very crucial with other senators both close to and opposed to the Duterte Administration eyeing the chamber’s top post after the May 2019 elections.

In this latest fracas, Lacson’s attacks against GMA and the House remain an allegation as the only thing they did was blackmail Duterte into saying he won’t sign a budget law without Sotto’s own signature. It was not even a half victory as he didn’t secure President Duterte’s endorsement of his idea of retaining the lump sum appropriations. Whatever arrangement between the Senate and the House should not have the lump sum appropriation that Lacson wanted.

Some Duterte supporters worry this could be a ruse to also affect public perception of the President as Lacson, as everyone knows, was close to the administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III and his “Yellow” crowd who remain anti-GMA. Lacson served as the former President’s Presidential Adviser on Yolanda Rehabilitation but resigned later because his recommendations did not take off. Still, Lacson defended PNoy when the Dengvaxia issue cropped up.

GMA, on the other hand, remains silent like a sphinx as she is retiring from elective office this June 30. Despite the issues of corruption during her presidency, many loved GMA’s academician’s mien in piercing the roots of the country’s social and economic ills since she entered public service in 1986. Let the lady retire in peace.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.