Conscience of the Senate?


It’s perplexing to me that for all the expert counsel and strategic direction that Vice president Jejomar Binay is allegedly getting from foreign and local strategists and advisers, the Binay camp up to now has evidently not bothered to do one iota of research on the demagoguery of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the US Senate and on the menace called “McCarthyism” and on how they were effectively stopped?

It’s even more mystifying to me that despite the black eye that the three senator-stooges—Antonio Trillanes, Alan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel—have given the Senate and the nosedive of the chamber to the bottom as the least trusted government institution in the country today, not a single one of our 23 senators—whether male or female—has complained that what Trillanes and company are doing in the subcommittee hearings is a derangement of the Senate’s powers and responsibilities.

A woman’s declaration of conscience
Men may be centuries ahead of women in seizing the bullhorn and levers of politics, but it was the only woman in the US Senate – Sen. Margaret Chase Smith – who dared to start the truck rolling toward burying Joe McCarthy and his malign witch hunt for communists in government, and set the stage for his eventual rejection and censure.

In February1950, Senator McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin, publicly charged that 205 communists had infiltrated the US State department. This set off a wide-ranging Congress inquiry and an official FBI hunt for card-carrying communists in every government department. The campaign went as far as Hollywood where writers, actors and directors were black-listed as probable communists.

On June 1, 1950, Senator Smith wrote and delivered on the Senate floor what she called “A Declaration of Conscience,” which six other senators endorsed and co-signed. The speech is remembered and anthologized as one of the greatest speeches in history.

In her speech, which lasted no more than 15 minutes, Smith criticized the US national leadership (Harry Truman was president at the time) and called for the country, the United States Senate, and the Republican Party to re-examine the tactics used by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and (without naming him) Senator McCarthy.

Smith denounced “the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled [in the chamber].”

She said McCarthyism had “debased” the Senate to “the level of a forum of hate and character assassination.”

She defended every American’s “right to criticize…right to hold unpopular beliefs…right to protest; the right of independent thought.”

While acknowledging her desire for Republicans’ political success, she said, “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.”

In response to the speech, McCarthy referred to Smith and the six other Senators as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.” He removed her as a member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, giving her seat to Senator Richard Nixon of California.

Smith’s speech did not immediately turn the tide against McCarthy. It took another four years before McCarthy was censured by the Senate. But it set the stage for his downfall.

In 1954, as a result of the sensational, nationally televised, 36-day hearings on McCarthy’s charges of subversion against US Army officers and civilian officials, the senator was publicly discredited. Television showed starkly his brutal and truculent interrogative tactics, Public opinion turned against him.

The Senate censured McCarthy on a vote of 67 to 22. Senator Margaret Chase-Smith was among the senators who voted to censure him.

McCarthy died not long afterwards. But McCarthyism became part of the English language, perhaps rivaled only by Machiavellianism.

Who will rise up from the pack?

Turning back to the title of this column, we must really wonder whether there is enough moral and ethical backbone in the Senate that will cause the pack to stir to life and notice finally how their institution is slowly curling back into a fetal state.

In the past, when things got rough, we could always count on someone with dignity and confidence enough to take up the cudgels of sanity and call for doing the right thing in the chamber.

Today, it’s not easy to find such a champion, because the quality of our senators has appreciably deteriorated . Still, I dare to believe that by a process of sheer attrition, our senators will weary of the subcommittee inquisition, which resumes again today.

They will see that the public and the media do not care for what the inquiry has become.

I dare to speculate that there may be at least one soul in the bowels of the Senate who will no longer countenance this travesty of power and privileges.

In the past, when Sen. Joker Arroyo was still around, we could always count on him to shout “enough” and call for sanity in what was being said or done in the name of the Senate. And he would in his inimitable way deliver a one-liner that would make everyone pause and think. But he is now retired.

Will Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who joined Arroyo and Bongbong Marcos in dissenting from the Palace-orchestrated lynching of former chief Justice Renato Corona, rise up and serve as the Senate’s conscience at this hour? Perhaps not. She has her own fantasy about running for president in 2016, and she can hardly be displeased by the ordeal that Binay is living through.

Will Bongbong rise up to be recognized? To Senate observers, he still looks a little gun-shy, even after nearly five years in the Senate. And he’s not in the running for president at this point in his still budding political career

It’s tempting to think that a woman senator, given the Margaret Chase-Smith precedent, will take up the cudgels for decency and good sense in the Senate.

But when we run through the list, one by one they slip away into irrelevance.

Sen. Pia Cayetano has to be scratched, because her brother is one of the three stooges. This inquisition is a family agenda with them.

Sen. Loren Legarda is the most senior among our women senators, but the lady has not taken a strong position on anything throughout her political life. She has spent most of her time running for office in every election she has had no time to grow a backbone of convictions and principles.

Nancy Binay, we have to scratch from contention, because it’s her father who is in the frying pan. This is one of those times when dynastic connections is a drawback, not an asset.

Cynthia Villar is too new and business-minded for the role of Senate conscience. Just as she and her husband calculated that coalescing the Nacionalista Party with the administration party for the 2013 election would be good for their politics and their business interests, so they will not disrupt their alliance.

This leaves us with Sen. Grace Poe, but she has to be discounted because she is too raw and too young. She has shown her mettle in a couple of hearings, and one speech. But she is still learning the ropes, and cannot credibly speak to the nation about tradition and rule of law.

The only senator remotely close to being an iconoclast and maverick is Sen. Serge Osmena, who has on several occasions in the past criticized openly President Aquino and his poor leadership. We don’t know whether he has it in him to criticize the Senate leadership and his colleagues. The horse-trading between senators that is a key part of senatorial life can be a strait-jacket for many.

What remains of the opposition – after the detention and hauling away of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and Sen. Bong Revilla – is no more than a shadow and a shell.

This role, paradoxically, is tailor-made for JPE, if he were at liberty to address the chamber today. I remember back in the ‘80s, during the presidency of another Aquino, when JPE stood up on the Senate floor, and called on President Cory Aquino to “Stop playing God.”

This is a time for that kind of public speaking – when the stakes are high, when the reputation of institutions are on the line, and when calculating everything on the basis of personal profit or advantage seems base.


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  1. finally there’s somebody in the person of mr. makabenta who was able to to relay to us the present state of the senate,the senate should restore its previous commitment to the people, perform their respective duties as legislator not acting like prosecutor and judge. we salute you mr. makabenta more power and god bless

  2. Cayetano with all his power will try to impute the VP to prevent him reach malacaῆang of course for a very personal reason. He don’t want to give-up BGC in favor of Makati.

  3. eliseo p. tenza jr. on

    The charges against Binay was started by his former allies that he allegedly double crossed. They claimed that the Makati World Class Green Parking building built for
    P 2.7 B was over priced. The Senate Blue Ribbon sub committee started the investigation in aid of legislation.
    What they realized was a massive corruption under Binays administration when he was mayor of Makati. He was invited many times to face accusers but made excuses to clear his name in the committee. Binay through his failure to face his accusers allowed his accusers to bring out more allege corruption and prolonged the investigation.
    I suggest that the investigation should stop now, as recommended by Sen. Santiago, and the committee submit their reports to the Ombudsman.

  4. rene queniahan on

    Sir, call them stooges but yet millions were thankful including this reader to at have an idea of who we should elect as the next president. Without this investigation million voters would not have a single hint.

  5. >>> Filipino People of the Philippines !!!! all of us especially those who are joining this blog and making comments. The government of this sticky brain headed president, legislatongs are like those in time of Jesus, Pilate and Caipas, also the readers and the audience in the senate. If some not know it yet, please watch the movie “Son of God” and the “Ten Commandments”.

  6. You’re right Mr. Makabenta.
    The senate dominated by the
    Liberals and allies of the Executive
    are servile to the president, it has
    become a “Yes man” senate.
    Understandably, they desperately
    need pork barrel funds now renamed Grassroots Participatory
    Budgeting for 2016 elections.
    The only senate that.become a
    tool for Publicity, Grandstanding
    and Demolition, thanks to the Three

  7. This is an excellent article explaining where we find ourselves. So I guess the kangaroo court will continue for another year and a half.

  8. Bert O. Romero on

    Sir, you’ve got it all wrong! Instead of condemning the senate inquiry, the public should give it all the support it could muster. The inquiry has served as a forum for letting the public know how hard-earned taxes enrich a particular family at the expense of the diminution of social services to the people of Makati. Is that bad? VP Binay has been given all the leeway, consistent with due process, to air his side of the story. Isn’t that fair and just? Corruption, like a termite, corrodes the very foundation of society and its exposé brings hope for the nation’s redemption. With more than 51 percent of the 100 million Filipinos suffering from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, how could one turn one’s back to this on-going inquiry without indirectly endorsing corruption?

  9. If ever I become a senator, the very first law I will sponsor is to prohibit the use of the word “Honorable” before the name of a senator or a congressman. Thieves are never honorable people.

  10. Kawawa naman si Binay, gusto lang niya maging presidente bigla na lang inu usisa kung karapat dapat nga ba talaga siya o hindi. Di bale nalang si Juan dela Cruz na gustong lang manigurado dahil sa karanasan niya kay GMA at itong BS nato, titiisin na lang niya ulit kung mangungurakot din itong si Binay bilang presidente dahil kawawa naman siya .

  11. After going through the list of incumbent senators of the great republic of the Philippines, I cannot help but wonder what kind of brains (if any) Filipino voters must have in electing such a classless, criminal and totally inept bunch of thieves to the upper chamber of the legislature!

    • I agree with Stellar and Tony. Folks we must wake up to the real world where most of us has slept for decades. Have we learned from the past?. Since my childhood it has been the process, majority runs for power and money and nothing else. Never believe those sweet promises during campaign period. If we have to go through hard choices then choose the lesser evil and be vigilant always, thieves comes at a moment when your are in deep sleep. We pray to God to bless our country and save us from those thick faced crocodiles in our government.

  12. i am not surprise if conscience is strange among senators nowadays…the sipsips can get away with anything including violating human rights of people they have invited to kangaroo court in the upper chamber as long as they have back up in senate leadership and malacanang.

    • Jose A. Oliveros on

      Sen. Chiz Escudero is busy with his own “Heart” to criticize the three senator-stooges conducting the inquisition against VP Binay

  13. Filipino People – WAKE UP- do NOT vote for Cayetano, Trillanes and Pimentel – the three stooges. They are not doing their jobs as legislators. The way they are dealing with the Binay case is so shameful on their part with no professionalism. They have to be ashamed of themselves as they themselves are recipients of the illegal DAP money from PNoy. They are even more corrupt ! They should be the one investigated. Most businessmen in the Philippines now are so turned-off how the 3 stooges are dealing with Filipino businessmen like Mr.Tiu. If people don’t tow in line with the illegal acts of the three stooges they easily brand the businessmen as tax evaders, money launderers,etc – Shame, Shame , Shame to the 3 stooges. Somebody get them out of the Senate NOW !!

    • I just hope no businessmen will ever donate or give any financial backing to any of the three stooges when they attempt to run again for any political position. Civil society should campaign to make pariah anyone who will contribute to insanity, insensitivity, stupidity and bias in the senate. The guilt of electing the likes of those guys should be thrown to those financiers and businessmen who provided the logistics that elected those types of characters.

  14. WALA TAYONG MAASAHAN SA PRESENT CROP NG MGA SENATORS. halos lahat ito ay naka parte sa DAP at hindi nila pwedeng hindi sundin ang utos ni aquino at abad dahil mawawalan sila ng pork. as proven in the investigation almost all of the senators used their pdaf pork and except for joker, maid miriam and makoy jr., all got DAP. sabi nung isang blogger ay wala daw bayag ang mga senador. palagay ko ang wala nila ay MORALITY, sila ay tinatawag na AMORAL, yung bagang walang sense of morality in them.

  15. Alexander P. Ahat on

    The three good senators are right in exposing the alleged anomalies and misdeeds of Jojo Binay. If these are true, then Binay has no right to lead our country come 2016; he has no moral ascendancy to govern. That is the reason why, there is this clamor for Binay to answer those charges hurled against him however he opted not to as of this very minute. Without the three senators’ expose I could not have known these things and I could have cast my precious vote for Binay in the next presidential election. Binay should refute and present enough and solid evidence to prove his innocence on the charges against him. I still have my full trust in the senate.

    • This is another guy who does not know that he does not know. For if we are to follow your logic, then, Jojo will never have the time and energy to answer 999,999,999 accusations. It is always the job of the accuser to come out with the proof of his/her allegations. The accusers have to prove the guilt instead of the accused proving innocence. Para ka pala mga pulis din ang utak na “guilty” agad dahil napapanood mga ganun eksena sa mga telenovela. What is the KBP doing in never censuring those kind of scenes and dialog in local television that police following such telenovelas assume to be proper?

  16. Dear Sir Yen,

    Your article highlights the only one truth in Philipine politics : Politicians, at all levels of elective office , are not there to serve the people but to protect their own interests and perpetuate their family political dynasties.

    Look around you, do you see any real statesman in our midst or in the horizon ?

    Nope……just no one in view.

  17. Nory Cabanilla on

    This article of Mr. Makabenta is excellent. However, I wonder why he calls the 3 senators referred to are “stooges”? Is he insinuating that they are under the control of somebody?

    • It is very clear that a puppeteer pulls strings to prod these three stooges to act. Not unlike the Corona ousting, this lynching of Binay is being directed not in the senate. What is really obvious at this point is that the senate has lost any identity. It is now a tool of whoever carries the bag of money.

  18. Sa palagay mo kaya mr.makabenta mayroon pa tayong maaasahan na politico sa nga nakapuesto ngayon na Hindi nag iisip sa dap(syempre pag kinalaban nila si pinoy wala sila dap)

  19. Ang mga Pinoy hinihintay na sampahan ng kaso si Bise Binay. At marami ay sinasabihan na dapat, mag-resign na si Bise from the cabinet. Ano ba naman iyan?