Last of Two Parts
I pointed out in my Wednesday column that we would be the world’s laughing stock if we elected as President someone like Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who renounced her Filipino citizenship to become a US citizen. There is just no nation on the face of this earth that has ever elected as its head of government and state, someone who had denounced his or her citizenship in that country.
A nation treats its citizenship – i.e., membership in it – as sacred, which is something you cannot renounce, unless you have really decided to be “forever” a member of another nation. A very rough analogy would be that of an Alpha Phi Omega member defecting to the Tau Gamma Phi, who by some miracle came to be an APO member again and now even seeks to be the frat’s head.
If you think that’s a preposterous scenario, it should be as utterly impossible in the case of Poe’s candidacy. That is, if we had not lost our sense of nationalism.
But that’s not my only beef with Poe. Mrs. Llamanzares doesn’t even have the right qualifications and experience to be elected as mayor in some frontier town or be hired as a Jollibee manager: She was voted into office by sheer celebrity politics, Filipinos confusing her as the daughter not of her adoptive father in real life but as the daughter of the Filipino movie hero “Panday.”
Worse, she has been lying, and as I explained on Wednesday, exaggerated her work experiences in the US, that “she taught geography and mathematics to preschool children” and was in the “scientific technologies field” (she was a minor staff in a firm of nine people selling moisture-measurement devices.)
This pattern of lies, using for credibility a bit of truth, also extends to her legislative record as senator.
Her spokesman Rex Gatchalian, on her official website, claimed that “Poe has authored and co-authored significant laws that would benefit the poor. She racked up an impressive list of accomplishments at the Senate. She has two laws under her belt, the “Free Mobile Texts During Disasters Act,” the “Three-Witness Rule” of the Dangerous Drugs Act governing the seizure and custody of drugs. “
Gatchalian claims: “She also co- authored six bills that became laws: the MARINA Act, the GO Negosyo Act, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, the Income Tax Exemption of 13th Month Pay, Amendments to the Fisheries Code and the Sugarcane Industry Development Act.
These are lies. She had very little, if any role in the passing of these laws.
Legislative process terms
What we should be outraged about is that Gatchalian takes advantage of the public ignorance about the terms used in the legislative process to lie about his boss’ legislative record.
The real author of a bill is the Senator (or House of Representatives member) who actually conceptualizes and introduces it to the Senate for passage into law. To gain support for it, the original author would agree to include others as co-authors, who often don’t have any contribution to it, and may not even have read it, really.
The so-called sponsors are the other type of hangers-on, who support the bill and often take the podium to explain why it should be passed, which doesn’t take much effort, anyway. The term means close to the usage of a “wedding sponsor,” the big difference is that the bill sponsor doesn’t have to do anything else. Such sponsorships function mostly to portray do-nothing or do-little senators as being busy in the Senate.
Often, what is critical in getting a bill enacted into law is the specific committee, especially its chair who evaluates it and recommends its approval. Probably 80 percent of the bills introduced in Congress end up in committees, which can simply not act on these at all. Bills drafted and passed by the House of Representatives are automatically sent to the Senate, concurred in by the senators and passed into law after the President’s final approval, with or without a Senate version.
Let’s study one by one the laws Poe’s spokesman said she “authored and co-authored,” using the Senate’s “Legislative Record” of each bill to expose their lies.
It is an outright lie that she authored or co-authored the Free Mobile Texts During Disasters Act. Congressman Neri Colmenares and several of his colleagues introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, with no Senate version. Poe was the second sponsor in the Senate, after Sen. Ramon Revilla.
It is an outright lie that she was responsible for Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10640 that streamlines the “Three-Witness Rule” of the Dangerous Drugs Act. She was just one of the authors, the last to sign up, with its early authors being Senators Sotto, Honasan, JV Ejerito, and Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada.
It is an outright lie that she was responsible for R.A. 10645 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act), which provided for mandatory Philhealth coverage for senior citizens. The bill was introduced by Sen. Ralph Recto, with sponsorship speeches made by Senators Teofisto Guingona 3rd and by Recto himself.
Obviously, the bill would be applauded by senior citizens and because of that, there was a rush of senators asking to be identified with it. All 19 senators, including Poe, who were present in the Sept. 22, 2014 session were made co-authors – i.e., excluding the absent Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, who were all in jail.
Poe also practically had nothing to do with R.A. 10635, or the Marina Act, which made it the sole agency responsible for implementing international standards. It’s one of the few accomplishments of Sen. Antonio Trillanes as co-author, with Senate President Franklin Drilon. As in the case of the Expanded Senior Act, all 23 senators were made its co-authors.
Why would senators want to be recorded as co-authors of a bill? Because if the bill is popular or uncontroversial, such senators could claim those laws as part of their accomplishments, as Poe had precisely done. Except for the senators who introduced the bill or were in the committees who evaluated and studied it, most purported “co-authors” are merely hangers-on, as Poe has been in the Senate.
This is almost exactly Poe’s role – zero really – in the four other laws she is credited for by her spokesman:
R.A. 10653 (Income Tax Exemption of 13th Month Pay): Authored by Senators Recto, Lapid, Angara and Villar, but with all 20 senators present at the time, including Poe, credited as co-authors.
R.A. 10654 (Amending the Fisheries Code): Poe was just one of its 10 authors, who also included the usual hangers-on like Sen. Lapid, as well as Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, who could not even attend the Senate sessions because they are in jail.
R.A. 10659 (Sugarcane Industry Development Act): Again, Poe was just one of the 10 senators who were recorded as “authors,” being members of the committees on agriculture, ways and means, and finance.
R.A. 10644 (GO Negosyo Act) The bill – neophyte senator Bam Aquino’s baby – was “co-authored” by seven other senators, including Poe.
Her website also declared: “Senator Grace shepherded the approval of the Peoples’ Freedom of Information Act in the Upper Chamber.” That’s a big lie: she was just one of 10 senators listed as its authors.
And it wasn’t even enacted into law, because of President Aquino’s opposition to it, obviously because he was afraid it would be used against him. Somebody would likely demand the Deeds of Sale and LTO registration of his 911 Porsche Turbo he claimed he bought and then sold, after a public outcry, in 2010. The talk among sports-car enthusiasts has been that a Chinese-Filipino luxury car distributor gave the Porsche to Aquino, and that he had not sold it, garaged in Hacienda Luisita.
If there’s any credit Poe deserves in her three years at the Senate, it is her capability to hang on to popular bills as “sponsor,” obviously to help her fill out her nearly empty CV.
Poe, of course, could boast of her performance with Senate Franklin Drilon almost always at her side as chairman of the committee that investigated the Mamasapano massacre of 44 of the police elite troops.
But then, there were several crucial things Poe did not pursue – such as the cell phone company records that would establish that Aquino was in touch with his buddy, the sacked police general Alan Purisima, the whole day of the massacre, but shirked from ordering the military to save the Special Action Force troops.
The Mamasapano hearings served as a breakthrough for Poe’s political ambitions. I suspect that it was Poe’s cover-up of Aquino’s complicity in the Mamasapano massacre that got her his covert financial and even political support for her presidential bid.