Sangil: This article is for Senators Bato et al

I POSTED on my Twitter that five outstanding members of the Philippine Senate who in the past years passed away, have replacements in the current Senate line-up. Reactions and comments flowed. Of course you remember all of them. There were indelible marks left by the late Senators Joker Arroyo, Blas F. Ople, Ernesto Maceda, Raul Roco and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. They were no bench warmers. They were brilliant. They are now missed. Please don’t compare Lito Lapid, Bato De La Rosa, Bong Revilla, Manny Pacquiao and Nancy Binay to the abovementioned senators. They polled votes and people don’t expect much from them in terms of lawmaking.

Aside from the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a story about Adolf Hitler and his rise to power till his death in a bunker during the conclusion of the 2nd World War, I am equally fascinated by the stories around the Roman senate which was one of the most enduring political institutions in Roman history.

In the mid-80s, I stayed more than a month in Germany and their citizens would rather not talk about Hitler, even inebriated by pilseners we consumed in their stubees (pubs). A 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 is 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 was no PDAF or pork barrel in those ancient times. Luckily enough, Butch Abad was not born in those years.

And if the present crop that compose the Philippine Senate today were already in that era sans for a few, like Koko Pimentel, Dick Gordon and Frank Drilon and few more others, the remaining will not qualify even to wash the feet of those men in white robes.

This article may be a good reminder to the newly elected senators like General Bato. They were elected not to just draw salaries 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.

Flash back again. I love to recall those days when as a student in the College of Philosophy and Letters in the University of Sto. Tomas, I even had 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, Alejandro Almendras, Raul Manglapus, Manuel P. Manahan, Helena Benitez, Eva Kalaw Estrada and many other high caliber members. Their ears must be full of gray matter and impressed the voting public on how eloquently they explained themselves during the hustings. Intellect was a required passport to gain a seat in the Philippine Senate in those days.

Later on for sociologists to study and explain to us why in the latter years there were but a 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, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ernesto Maceda and Jovito Salonga are a vanishing breed.


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