‘Uupakan kita’

Turncoat Strom Thurmond, who died at age 100 after 48 years as a United States senator, must be grinning ear-to-ear in his grave. Make that tap-dancing with glee. Not from being the longest filibusterer in American legislative history at 24 hours and 18 minutes to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1957. That’s old news.

From the great beyond, Thurmond can totally relate to the antics of entitled Filipino lawmakers, who menace and threaten physical harm on persons who have had the misfortune of being invited or forced into their inquisitorial chambers.

In the flower-power era of the 1970s, Thurmond, the Democrat-Republican flipflop, hogged headlines by infamously threatening to sock the lights out of anti-war activist Dr. Benjamin Spock.

A yappy pediatrician, Spock had it coming from the segregationist Thurmond, who got fed up with the psychoanalyst’s take that wars, specifically the Vietnam War, were damaging children. War does that to everyone, right?

“If you don’t stop interrupting me, I’m going to knock the hell out of you,” Thurmond bellowed during the hearing. The senator was the star of the show, even then writing off as mere footnotes the some 500 civilians killed by American GIs in Vietnam’s My Lai Massacre in 1968.

Machine-gunned and gang-raped women and children, they were inconsequential Vietnamese lives to Thurmond, mere “casualties of the brutality of war,” nothing but file-and-forget affairs to a true-blue racist.

But even a hawk could be shot down from his perch, as Thurmond would find out as the American public forced him to apologize and accept the basic precept that even lawmakers had to adhere to decorum.

Ever the survivor, Thurmond knew when to say mea culpa in between jabs, something that Filipino lawmakers should take a page from if they aspire to come even close to the American’s electoral longevity.

Our own Senate, in Rule 34, penalizes unparliamentary acts and language. Alas, only insofar as unacceptable actions and utterances by senators against fellow senators and against “institutions” are concerned.

But let’s not quibble over the Senate rules. There’s Article 6 Section 21 of the Constitution that is chiseled in stone. It says that lawmakers should respect the rights of persons appearing at their “inquiries in aid of legislation,” or in aid of a failed reelection as one particular thug found out. Good riddance.

Before lawmakers brandish the gavel, they should start by following the law, those very things they craft. They should stop acting like brats and prima donnas who think they are above the law, especially those among them who have had run-ins with the law.

Even their echo chambers could not cleanse their tarnished histories or grant them the divine entitlement to shower contempt upon mere taxpayers. Like Thurmond, our lawmakers should temper their pretensions to power with wisdom.  Equality applies to everyone, whether king or commoner, lawmaker or layman.

True, the echoes of time are enchanting, and our lawmakers are the comedic custodians of tradition, reviving the classics with a flair that Thurmond himself would applaud.

After all, why whisper in the hallowed halls of Congress when you can roar? Here, Senator Robin Padilla, with his resounding “uupakan kita” spiel to a humble barangay official takes the cake.

How utterly Thurmond-esque, to resort to the fine art of menace. A virtuoso performance, if you will. Bravo!

Nonetheless, given the alleged cruelty committed against a helpless household worker, it is not difficult to see where the swashbuckling Padilla was coming from. Righteous indignation? Rage over an injustice? Maybe so.

But why did Padilla threaten to resort to the very thing — violence — that he was supposedly angry about? Was it because the woman could not fight back? How about the barangay official? Could he have even raised his hands in defense when it’s a senator who was threatening to lynch him?The next time lawmakers feel the urge to threaten to mug someone (while their bodyguards watch?), they should take a deep breath and count to ten. They should remember that they are passing judgment on their very character with the actions they take, good or bad.

Is it any wonder that it’s become an oxymoron to say that “brutish” behavior is unparliamentary since it has become par for the course among the Thurmonds in our midst?

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