THE legislative branch, the Congress, is one of the three co-equal branches of the government. Our Congress is bicameral in nature, split into two houses—the Upper House or the Senate, and the Lower House, or the House of Representatives.
In some countries, whether under a federal form of government or not, there is only one house in a legislative body. This is the unicameral system where the legislative body consists of only one legislative chamber, normally called a legislative assembly.
House hearings on Dengvaxia
The joint House committee on good government and public accountability together with the committee on health conducted a public hearing on Monday, February 26, on the Dengvaxia issue.
The House hearings, which are supposedly in aid of legislation, are aimed at looking into the legality of the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccines by the Department of Health (DoH) under the Aquino administration. The mass immunization program allegedly posed health risks to more than 830,000 Filipino children who were inoculated without their prior consent. Thus, the House seeks to hold accountable those responsible for the vaccine purchase. A worthy objective on the face of it.
By the way, this is not the first public inquiry conducted by the Congress pertinent to the issue of Dengvaxia. To the chagrin of many, the Senate had in fact held a series of public hearings, too, on the same issue. Is there something new in the House hearings? That is the question asked by many viewers and listeners.
One user from social media, under the pseudonym of Vida Doria, even commented, “Paulit-ulit ang tanong kung ilan na ang nabakunahan mula pa sa Senado. (Repeated question on how many were vaccinated, asked since the Senate.)” She is basically correct. A lot of questions coming from the ranks of our “congressmen” are repeat questions. Questions that were already asked and answered by resource persons, during the Senate inquiry.
A certain Nova Ambe remarked, “So what’s the final decision now? Another hearing na naman (again)? Come on!”
What is the point here? The function, or whatever mandate these lawmakers from the Lower House are exercising is a duplication of the very same thing that the senators are doing. In other words, a bicameral system worsens things up. The solution is just to have a unicameral system.
House impeachment hearings
The House committee on justice, chaired by Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, continued its impeachment deliberations, its 15th hearing, on Tuesday, February 27, to determine probable cause in the complaint against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno. If there is probable cause, then the Articles of Impeachment will be forwarded to the Senate for a full-blown trial. Umali himself said that they started the proceedings way back in November 2017.
My personal take on this matter, which I have written previously in this column, is that the House has already exceeded its mandate and is now on the verge of trying the Chief Justice – which of course lies with the Senate. The House should have stopped its proceedings early on and should have transmitted the articles to the Senate promptly.
One Gloria Brioso remarked, “Natakasan na kayo ni Sereno, patuloy pa din ang investigation nyo. Saan nyo ngayon hahabulin xxx yan? Maghabol kayo sa tambol mayor! (Sereno had already escaped, you are still continuing your investigation. Where can you run after her? Run after the bass drum!).”
(Note: According to Yahoo Answers, ‘Maghabol ka sa tambol mayor’ is usually said to those who are late or those who are slow. Since they cannot keep up with those in front or with the majority, they are told to run after the bass drum because that is the only thing they can hope for.)
Why would someone say such a thing? It meant that the process took so long and it should have been abbreviated for everybody’s sake. Again, these impeachment hearings reinforce the calls for the abolition of a two-chamber system in case of a shift to a federal form of government. In a unicameral system, these prolonged hearings will be a thing of the past.
By the way, the Chief Justice has gone (or was “decided” by the Supreme Court en banc?) on an “indefinite leave” effective March 1. Although CJ Sereno insists that she would not resign her post, I believe that there is no other way to go but there.
Anyway, as it stands now, it is better to have a single chamber in the legislative body. In a unitary legislature, there will be no duplication of investigations. Things will move faster and in a more efficient manner. Much more, there will be a much fewer number of legislators to be paid with taxpayers’ money.