Abellanosa: May the best senatoriables win!

Fringes and frontiers

THE Senate is important because it is a crucial decision maker not only in matters of legislation and policy but also because it is, in principle, an agency that is supposed to check and balance the executive.

Although it is just one among two of the houses of Congress nonetheless it is designed, according to our constitution, as more independent in nature compared to the House of Representatives.

Senators are elected as national, not local or district, representatives. Theoretically therefore they are answerable to the entire Filipino people and not primarily to their districts. That is why, and we must have noticed that Senators are like “little presidents” in terms of stature, reputation, and even privilege. In theory, both the representatives of the Lower House and the Senate are “legislators.” Compared to his counterpart in the Lower House, the Senator has wider latitude of popularity, influence, and special affinity to the Executive.

History tells us that there were many crucial events in the life of the country that highlighted the role of the Senate. We may recall a few, such as the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada (1999), the impeachment of the late and former Chief Justice Renato Corona (2012), and even the attempted impeachment of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide (2003).

In the area of legislation that intersected with international relations, the Senate was also at the forefront of decision-making. As far as I can remember the following events were crucial for the Philippine Senate to decide: the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the ratification of the entry and participation of the Philippines in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which even led to the case “Tanada versus Angara.” And who can forget that significant decision of the Philippine Senate in 1991? Under the leadership of the late Jovito Salonga, the Senate of the early 90s ended the presence of the US Military when it rejected the proposal of the US to start another agreement with the Philippines. It also refused the extension of the presence of the U.S. military base especially in Subic. Apparently these were not the only political issues that the Senate of the past dealt.

The country is facing a lot of issues. Primarily, it is “the President of the Republic” who is facing a lot of issues. Just because he is the head of the administration does not mean that he is beyond checks and balances. He remains accountable to the people, and by this we are not just talking about the seventeen million solid and diehard fans that voted for him but the entire Filipino nation.

We need a Senate that can stand by itself and for the Filipino nation, especially those who did not vote for the President. We need a senate that is not afraid to conduct investigations and use its power of inquiry not just for the purpose of grandstanding - but truly in aid of legislation. We need a Senate that is not beholden to the powers of a President who is manipulative, fond of using coercion and dirty tactics against his opponents.

For what kind of Senate will we have if it will be composed of people who will work like the President’s Cabinet? Some serious questions therefore are in order. If the administration’s senatorial bets will win, will they work “technically and genuinely” as Senators and not as extended PNP generals only that they won’t be wearing a badged uniform? Will they really craft laws that are for the good of this country rather than serve as designated assistants to take “selfie” with the President? On a more serious note, will they advance the interest of the Filipinos and not that of President and his motives of self-preservation?

We need good and principled Senators not clowns, dancers, boxers, and Bible preachers. We pay our taxes, painful as it may be, in order to get good representation in return. As said, “taxation without just representation is tyranny.” To wake up one day seeing the Senate filled with twenty-four idiots is much greater than tyranny. It’s a nightmare worse than that of the children of Elm Street.


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