THE looming constituent assembly should throw to the garbage bin the existing limits on the terms of senators, congressmen and local government officials.
Some may criticize this proposal as self-serving for the senators and congressmen who will sit in the constituent assembly to be convened to propose amendments to the Constitution. The legislators should ignore such views if they want to improve the quality of lawmaking and local governance.
The present Constitution limits senators to two consecutive terms, and congressmen and local elective officials to three consecutive terms. This Congress insider has noted the evident deterioration of the quality of legislators and of lawmaking after veterans are disqualified from seeking reelection.
The reason for such deterioration is simple: the graduating officials are replaced by “First Graders” who still have to learn the ropes. The neophytes can’t hit the ground running. They have to acquaint themselves with the Rules of Procedure of the House or the Senate, and this takes time. They’ll be hiring staffers who may have no previous experience on research and other aspects of formulating a bill.
Oh, yes, I noted that most of the research is done at the House and Senate archives, the repository of dead bills. The congressmen and senators copy these bills, and then file them as “authors,” without consulting with or getting permission from the real authors. It’s no surprise, therefore, to find that several congressmen and even senators have filed similarly worded bills.
Imposing a term limit wastes a lot of talent. The late Senators Joker Arroyo and Miriam Defensor Santiago would have added more brains and direction to the chamber had they not been disqualified from seeking a third consecutive term.
Some seek a new office upon reaching their term limit. Sometimes, they were like a square peg in a round hole. President Rodrigo Duterte ran for congressman after his third consecutive term as Davao City mayor. Midway through his term, he became frustrated with the slow pace of lawmaking and submitted a letter of resignation. He withdrew his resignation when he was told that he could be charged with abandonment of elective public office.
Thus, after one term at the House, Duterte went back to Davao City as city mayor. On serving his second three-consecutive terms as mayor, he chose to run for vice mayor rather than for congressman. He was definitely not cut out to be a lawmaker.
Former Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim is of the same mold. He fretted at the Senate and served only three years of his six-year term to run for city mayor again.
Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte is in a class by himself. He excelled both as lawmaker and as city mayor. Under his administration, Quezon City surpassed Makati as the richest city in the Philippines. He was Speaker under two administrations.
The term limit was conceived to prevent some political personages from monopolizing elective posts. It was thought that this constitutional provision would give more people the opportunity to serve. The intention was good but it was seldom achieved.
In almost all instances, a graduating congressman or local official picks an immediate family member—wife, sibling, child or parent—to take his place. This is most understandable from the point of view of political survival. Many outstanding congressmen who have served three consecutive terms have found it difficult to get back their old post from a non-relative. Off-hand, I can think of the late Rep. Mike Romero of Negros Oriental and Manuel Puey of Negros Occidental.
Romero was often in the list of outstanding congressmen in his 11 years at the House. Puey was acknowledged as the foremost maritime expert in the House. After three terms, Romero ran for senator and lost; Puey ran for vice governor and lost. Both never got back their House seats.
Then, there’s the case of former Iloilo Rep. Albertito Lopez who, after serving three successive terms, invited Augusto Syjuco to run in his district while he ran for governor of Guimaras. Albertito lost, and wanted to get back his old Iloilo seat in the 2001 election. Syjuco refused to give in to Albertito and the two former political allies became rivals. Albertito lost. That’s the last time he ran in an election.
In the case of a graduating congressman who’s succeeded by an immediate family member, the successor usually could not measure up to standards set by the veteran legislator. All that the new successor has is a popular family name. Of course, there are exceptions. Rep. Rodolfo Albano of Isabela is one of the ablest parliamentarians but he had to leave after serving three terms. Fortunately, his son Rodito, a bar topnotcher, was elected to succeed him and ably filled his shoes.
Drive against gambling
Policemen are now strictly implementing the prohibition against gambling, including my favorite card game, tong-it, even during wakes.
I would caution those against gambling not to cheer yet. Tong-it is no longer allowed but jueteng goes on unmolested.