The proposal of Vice President Jejomar Binay to lift the term limits of local officials should be studied carefully and not rejected immediately just because the proponent heads a family that has held political power for decades. The idea should be considered shorn of the person dishing it and of the motivation behind it. We’ll never go anywhere if we always consider the singer and not the song.
VP Binay has limited his proposal to local officials only. Since congressmen are elected by legislative district, they would presumably benefit from the passage of Binay’s proposal. I would even go further than Binay — the term limit imposed on senators who are elected at large should also be lifted.
The Constitution limits the term of local officials and congressmen to three consecutive terms and that of senators, to two consecutive terms. The main idea of the framers of the Constitution was to give other persons the opportunity to serve. This idea itself is not appealing to me and should never have found its way into the Charter. Democracy resides in the people and preventing qualified persons from running because they have already served the maximum allowable term is a diminution of their power to choose who should lead them. Let the people decide. In fact, they may not even allow some local officials to serve beyond one term!
My other main beef against the existing term limits is that it has prevented outstanding congressmen and senators from continuing with their service. The Eighth Congress, along with the Ninth, has arguably the best congregation of congressmen after EDSA 1. Many talented candidates with limited means got elected by the people who were still aflame with expectations on the promises of Cory Aquino and EDSA 1. To name a few, Gregorio Andolana of North Cotabato, Michael Mastura of Maguindanao (he’s now with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), Venancio Garduce of Samar, Boni Gillego of Sorsogon, Emigdio Lingad of Pampanga and Edgar Lara of Cagayan. Old distinguished politicians/political families that became non-entities during martial law returned with a vengeance like Cornelio Villareal of Capiz, Magdaleno Palacol of Laguna, Raul Daza of Northern Samar, Abad of Batanes, Laurel of Batangas, and Teves of Negros Oriental.
Then, there were the new names who weren’t exactly from the lower middle class but were exceptional lawmakers like Oscar Orbos of Pangasinan, Mike Romero and Jerry Paras of Negros Oriental, Pablo Garcia and Raul del Mar of Cebu, and Edcel Lagman of Albay. I know, it’s useless to think those good old days would return, what with the betrayal of EDSA 1 and the proven incompetence in governance of the late “Icon of Philippine Democracy.” Nevertheless, we could still get legislators of the talent, vision and intelligence of many members of the Eighth Congress by repealing the constitutional provision imposing term limits.
Hold on to the best men!
When we have congressmen with proven vision and ability to hammer out a compromise on vital bills, we should hold on them. We should let them serve as long as the people want them. Former Rep. Larry de Pedro 3rd of North Cotabato was outstanding as congressman but after serving three consecutive terms, he had to run for governor. Yes, he won but as governor, he wasn’t as good as when he was in Congress. The late Mike Romero was also an exemplary lawmaker but after three terms, he had to run for another post – that for senator and lost. He never got to return to Congress although he would have been a role model for many new legislators.
The legislature lost many good men because of the well-intentioned constitutional provision imposing term limits. Veteran parliamentarians have to give way to new ones after three successive terms and the quality of legislation and of Congress members has deteriorated. The replacements, usually from the same political families, are general inferior to the veterans. The new ones still have to learn the ropes. Unlike their predecessors who had already distinguished themselves, they have virtually nothing except their family name. Of course, there are exceptions like Rodolfo Albano Jr and his son Rodolfo Albano 3rd, a Bar topnotcher, who have been succeeding each other after every three successive terms since 1987, with each giving distinguished service to their district and to the lawmaking body.
Over at the Senate, Joker Arroyo, Edgardo J. Angara, Nene Pimentel and, soon Miriam Defensor Santiago, are among the best arguments on why the term limit should be abandoned. With them around, there will be no room for the do-nothing bumbling ambitious people with nothing but family name and riches to back them up.