Boston, MA—I was so impressed with the JFK (John F. Kennedy) Library and Museum that it practically defined my New England trip with former colleagues from the office of former Sen. Rene Saguisag. The JFK Library by Boston harbor and the richness of its collection left me totally awed by JFK, his family, RFK (Robert F. Kennedy) and (former First Lady) Jackie (Kennedy) as well as their kids. We stayed for hours thereby requiring another trip someday to Boston to visit another Ivy League.
As I went around the exhibits, I kept asking myself, why can’t we have this kind of leadership? Why can’t we have a courageous leader who would dare to do things and reshape the future of PH? Our leaders always fail us by the midterm, probably we should revisit the term of office and allow consecutive terms of four years each so that we remove the seemingly lame duck situation some have or tend to exhibit. Midterm should have been putting together a legacy agenda but often, we get derailed by politics or decisions made outside of the public sphere but revealed into the last three years thereby creating a lot of political tremors that tend to remove focus on what needs to be done near term ends.
The call for People Power on the abolition of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the crowdsourcing of a new Constitution may be solutions for the long term but we still have to contend with the present set of elected officials. The frequent question asked is where to? How to solve our present predicament? How do we get out of the rut? One thing sure is there is anger among citizens and the anger is growing due to the striptease releases happening and the spin galore to rebut questions asked. Another, not all constituents are informed on the use of PDAF by their district representatives as well as the functions of legislators, hence the recent survey results of Pulse Asia.
In a survey conducted nationwide from 14-27 September with a design used nine years ago or in 2004, Pulse Asia found that “54% of the respondents did not know of any project or program implemented by a senator or their representative in their place in the last six years.” This is higher than the 43% recorded in October 2004. This means Congress has not done much educating, informing and explaining, one of the key functions of members of Congress. And they only have themselves to blame. As the people’s institution, Congress has through the years lost it’s openness and transparency. It has become an elite club where independence has been set aside for coalitions that ensures bringing the bacon home to their districts and for self aggrandizement for some senators, increasing their SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) across terms.
Listen members of the 16th Congress: “39% of the respondents said they were aware of the projects of lawmakers, down from 52% in 2004. 7% could not say whether such projects or programs were implemented, up from 5% 9 years ago. Across geographic areas and socioeconomic classes, lack of awareness of a lawmaker’s project or program ranged from 46 % to 64%. Further, 77% of the respondents said at least half of the money allocated for a project or program of a lawmaker was lost to corruption. Of this figure, 30% said half of the budget went to corruption, 27% said more than half of the budget went to corruption, and 20 % said almost the whole budget went to corruption. Interestingly, when asked what duties lawmakers should prioritize, 42% said implementing projects and programs for their constituents; 32% said making laws; 14%, investigating scandals and other issues; and 12% reviewing and passing the annual budget.” What do you plan to do? Should you remain in your silos? The Speaker to the House of Representatives and the Senate President to the Senate and never the twain should meet?
Today, not even the super majorities in both chamber can protect the administration from responsibilities on DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and Malampaya. Both chambers do not even show indignation on how the budget process has been bastardized by the Executive with DAP. There are still discoveries we unearth each day and which all the more make the nation’s BP shoot up. There is still the testimony of Napoles, the completion of the COA audits and the filing by DOJ of other plunder cases, FOI law, making mandatory the release of SALN, release of list of projects and beneficiaries of PDAF, DAP and other discretionary funds. And so we ask, are there no courageous legislators left? Dante used to say that “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” How come no legislator can take the side of the people?
The anger is too strong that there is even a call for an interim government since we are not getting any concrete and direct response from elected leaders. Indeed we are in a crossroads where courage is needed to find solutions to our problems. JFK once wrote, “to be courageous requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all. Politics merely furnishes one arena which imposes special tests of courage. In whatever arena of life one may meet the the challenge of courage, whatever the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss,of friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men—each man must decide the course he will follow. The story of past courage can define the ingredient— they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”
Can we even see just one?