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Sangil: The Philippine Senate in the time Covid-19

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BLOOPERS, bloopers and bloopers pa more. There are 24 members of the Philippine Senate, a.k.a. upper house. Many are in the news lately because of their indiscretions. The biggest blunder was committed by Koko Pimentel, a bar topnotcher and former Senate President. He was Covid-19 positive and exposed himself when he accompanied his wife to Makati Medical Center. He got bashed heavy as a result.

I had the opportunity to travel to Rome some years back and I was fascinated by the stories around the Roman Senate, which is one of the most enduring political institutions in Roman history. Few years ago, I roamed the streets of Rome in a Roman Holiday with my friend Martin Vitug and was awed by the Roman Forum, which until today still around surrounded by ruins of several buildings. This is where more than 500 years earlier, high caliber senators of the Roman Republic assembled in their Senate and deliberated.

And in that ancient Senate, names like Caius Bruttius, Orestes, Marcus, Cicero and those brilliant men in white robes argued and debated so intelligently with the best interest of Rome at heart. No nincompoops. And yes Virginia, there were no PDAF or pork barrel in those ancient times. And in this modern times, the so-called SOPs, which in reality is kickback, draw popular figures like movie stars, athletes, TV and radio personalities to vie for a senate seat. Non discerning voters placed them there at the upper house. And in some instances, some even successfully re-elected even they were already indicted in courts.

And if the present crop that compose the Philippine Senate today were already in that era, sans for few, the others will not qualify even to wash the feet of those men in white robes. This article maybe a good reminder that in any elections, the voters should be careful in electing persons who are not supposed to be there and yet draw salaries, pork barrel in tens of millions of pesos and enjoy perks and privileges underwritten by our taxes. Taxes, which are supposed to build roads, ports, schools and the much needed infrastructures so we can catch up with our Asean neighbors, yet are pocketed by some whose desire for money is a bottomless pit. In this time of crisis due to the outbreak of Covid-19, have you heard of senators and even congressmen proposing to deny themselves of salaries and allowances and instead donate them in the fight versus the corona virus spread? Paging the Villars and colleagues.

I keep writing and talking about the past generation of the Philippine Senate. I love to recall those days when as a student in the College of Philosophy and Letters in the University of Sto. Tomas, I will even have to walk from my boarding house in Mayhaligue street in Sta. Cruz to watch the sessions in the Congress building (now the National Museum).

There were then Ferdinand Marcos, Benigno Aquino, Lorenzo Sumulong, Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Diokno, Ambrosio Padilla, Arturo Tolentino, Soc Rodrigo, Edmundo Cea, Helen Benitez, Eva Kalaw Estrada and many other high caliber members. Their ears must be full of gray matters and impressed the voting public in how eloquently explained themselves during the hustings. Intellect was a required passport to gain a seat in the Philippine Senate those days.

Later on, for sociologists to study and explain to us why in the latter years there were but few people of high intellect elected in the Senate and they come in trickles every election time. The likes of Blas F. Ople, Miriam Santiago, Joker Arroyo and Richard Gordon are a vanishing breed. God bless the Philippine Senate.


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