By Milwida M. Guevara
I felt totally dismayed upon reading that the Republicans of the US House of Representatives decided to curtail the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics. The Office is an independent body which conducts investigations on complaints of misconduct of Congressmen. In the past, the office pursued bribery charges against three Congressmen that resulted to them serving time in jail. The lawmakers decided to prevent the office from pursuing investigations and to block the staff from speaking to media in a move to protect themselves.
In less than 28 hours, the House reversed its decision. The Congress was inundated by calls and messages from irate constituents creating a national uproar. Groups and organizations issued statements that expressed disgust over the decision. Social anger was at work!
The willingness and ability of the American public to openly and speedily express their disapproval of proposed policies are truly amazing. Taxpayers feel that it is both their right and obligation to censure their representatives. They take the time and the effort to express their sentiments. And their collective action produces results.
This must be one of the reasons behind the belief that it would not be easy for an American President to reverse policies and introduce radical changes. Their institutions work! Voters respond with haste to publicly express their opinions over policy pronouncements. Discussions and debates are organized to enable citizens to appreciate the issues and understand their implications.
I recall with pride similar initiatives in the country. My friend John Silva takes the time to explain aberrations in behavior not only to influence public opinion but to stimulate them to take action. He exhorted friends and colleagues to write to sponsors of a TV program in protest of child abuse. He brings out to public consciousness the destruction of trees when firms shamelessly nailed their posters on them. He supported our cause against the construction of landfill in Obando by writing to the Chief Justice and asked his followers in the social media to do the same.
The expression of social anger gives me hope. Anger can be a motivating force. It can be a powerful instrument in discouraging bad policies and unjust programs. It can communicate resentment and public disapproval of policies and behavior. It can put a stop to initiatives that are powered by selfish, uninformed, and vested interests.
There may have been instances in the past when our Congressmen and Senators who represent us in Congress were able to get away with anything. They voted on policies and proposals without consulting us and based on what they think will further their own goals. We have ourselves to blame because we were remiss in our duties. We failed to get involved and did not tell them what we think. This is also true to our relationship with other officials we elect such as the President and our local government officials.
With better access to technology, and using our cell phones and facebook account, let us show them that they are accountable to voters and taxpayers. Let us stop being their silent partners. Let them mirror what their constituents think and not just what they think. And if need be, let us express our social anger on policies and programs that will not promote our welfare. Then and only then can we hope to have the government that we all deserve.