Those who continue to believe that the Senate is the best training ground for the presidency should look at the case of former senator, now President, BS Aquino The Last. They’ll find out that this leader whom his followers want to call “The Best Philippine President Ever” had a forgettable three-year stint in the Senate.
Aquino was a congressman for three terms before he was elected to the Senate in 2007. He seemed to believe that the culture in the Senate was the same as that in the House. I sensed this before the 2007 Christmas break of Congress when he asked Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, sponsor of the bill creating the Civil Aeronautics Administration, to defer his sponsorship. Aquino’s reason? He was absent when Enrile started sponsoring the measure the day before and he hadn’t read the bill yet.
JPE said that copies of the bill had already been distributed to the senators long before he started his sponsorship. He stressed that he was not to blame if some senators didn’t study the copy given to them. He must have incensed Aquino when he refused to defer the debate on the certified bill, for at the House, sponsors usually give in to deferment requests of their colleagues.
At the House, congressmen usually agree to pleas not to interpellate sponsors of “non-controversial local bills.” I also know of one instance where a congressman about to deliver a privilege speech about the state of the sugar industry asked another to interpellate. The second congressman knew very little about the sugar industry but that was no problem – the first congressman gave a set of questions for his friend to ask in the interpellation, including one about a controversial personality. Oh yes, the first congressman acted as if he was forced to answer that question.
Ah, but the culture at the Senate (then?) was different. The seniority rule then was strictly observed and when a neophyte senator stood up without being fully prepared, then he’d be put in his proper place. I had already written several times about how Aquino got embarrassed when he dared to debate a legal issue with then Sen. Joker Arroyo. It’s not surprising therefore that JPE was unimpressed when Aquino stood up after failing to study the bill on the Civil Aeronautics Administration previously given to him. Did Aquino expect others even then to dance to his tune?
Aquino also caught my attention when the secondary committee that he headed, the Senate Committee on Local Governments, submitted a report on a House bill different from that of the lead committee, the Senate committee on Constitutional Amendments, Codes and Revision of Laws then chaired by Sen. Dick Gordon.
Gordon’s report recommended the resetting of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to the second Monday of May 2008 and every three years thereafter. Aquino’s sought the deferment of the consideration of the measure until after a Senate bill on the same subject was filed. The Senate majority leader then, Kiko Pangilinan, correctly acknowledged only the Gordon committee report.
This is the general rule in both the House and the Senate: when a bill is referred to several committees, the lead committee drafts the report. If majority of the members of all the participating committees sign the report, then it is forwarded to the rules committee. This ensures that different committees won’t make conflicting reports on the same subject that they have acquired jurisdiction over. I may be wrong but before Aquino, I had never heard of a chairman of a secondary committee filing its own report.
BS Aquino a failed experiment
After BS Aquino The Last, we’re now hearing of a number of senators angling for Malacañang. Let’s now look at the wannabe’s for their performance and qualifications and not for their family lineage or their being members of the Senate.
President BS Aquino the Last was a non-performer as a legislator. If his past is used to gauge his capability, then there should have been no reason to give him an overwhelming mandate. On second thought, was that mandate really given him by the people? Or, was it by the PCOS machines?