• Scrap the current Senate

    16

    romeroIn Roman times the Senate was composed of the oldest, ablest, wisest people who were able to transcend the petty and partisan strife that beset ordinary legislative bodies and look more directly at the common good. But alas and alack our Senate today seems to be populated by politicians who seem to be bereft of the virtues that made the Roman Senate the paragon of virtues.

    This has forced Miriam Santiago the feisty Ilongga senator to comment that Filipinos want to spit at senators. True or not, it must be said that never in the history of the upper chamber has it been mired in so much controversy as it has been today. Can you imagine the likes of Claro Recto, Jose Laurel, Jose Diokno, Raul Manglapus, Lorenzo Sumulong, Lorenzo Taòada, Gil Puyat and Benigno Aquino Jr. being involved with the likes of Janet Napoles?

    We still recall in the time of my father and grandfather that the senators were considered the best and the brightest in the land whose debating skills and oratorical process would fill the senate gallery with law students and scholars who were simply awed by the bilingual exchanges and oratorical skills of the senators. Indeed the exchanges between the likes of Quezon and Claro Recto were classics! This is stark contrast to the debates in the upper chamber today which nobody cares to listen to.

    Senator Santiago reportedly added in press reports that the situation so far is “beyond remedy” as the formerly august chamber has been mortally wounded by the Napoles scam. Really now! It is easy for the lady senator to say so, since she will be leaving for the International Court of Justice soon. Assuming she is right, the next logical step would be to have the upper chamber abolished by the Constitution!

    As far as we are concerned it will be good riddance for a chamber whose creation under the Cory Constitution was marred by heated debate between unicameralists and bicameralists. Indeed the creation of the Senate was passed by a single vote majority. This was a big mistake on hindsight because today we have an upper chamber of people elected at large but seemingly representing only a few dynastic families whose main concern is to perpetuate themselves in power and hopefully land the job of head of government. They neither represent the country or any particular region. In fact quite a few of them only represent a few small constituencies in Metro Manila. Imagine a pair of siblings from Taguig and San Juan occupying seats in the Senate at the same time!

    Indeed our Senate set up is the first of its kind. In the US senators represent states while in Europe the upper chambers do not legislate—they just “review” the work of the bigger chamber and recommend the veto of bills if warranted. The system also prevents the gridlock that we see quite often when both chambers engage in a tug-of-war over legislation, requiring a third chamber called the “conference committee,” composed of representatives of both chambers to reconcile the opposing views of the House and the Senate. In recent times this body has become even more powerful than the two legislative chambers. Obviously the process delays priority bills and encourages “logrolling,” an American term for quid pro quo or “cash-sunduan,” which adds to the imperative of scrapping this underperforming smaller institution which costs the citizens a lot of tax money, given its bloated budget.

    An alternative would be to elect senators by regions which could assure the representation of more provinces especially in the Visayas and Mindanao which are badly underrepresented at the present time. It would also cost much less to campaign so that better qualified people who cannot afford to run under the present system can present themselves under this cheaper mode of elections. Actually this was the system in the past when senators were elected by districts.

    Definitely looking at the composition of the upper chamber today, any change would certainly be for the better!

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    16 Comments

    1. dapat mabuwag ang lower house at ang upper house, wala na silang cridibilidad.. sino ang pwedeng gumawa nito? pinaka madali military takeover

    2. i don’t think abolition of the upper house even to include the congress will solve graft and corruption in the government…i believe it is sacrifices and love for our country is the answer…and this must prevail to each one of us…tulad ng mga koreano at hapon…PERO KAYA NGA BANG GAWIN ITO NG BAWAT ISA SA ATIN ALANG-ALANG SA BAYAN? mayroon nagsakripisyo at magsakripisyo subali’t ilan lamang sila…kulang…kulang ng kulang dahil ang kailangan ay lahat…bawat isa sa atin…

    3. Why abolish the Senate . . only. Military takeover or Revolutionary government is needed to start from scratch and have Elections when we are prepared. Wala ng pagasa ang gobyerno natin, kung di abolish lahat. Puro magnanakaw ang nasa gobyerno, from the Barangay to Malakanyang, mga nasa Congreso at Senado din, hindi ko linalahat pero kunti lang ang matitino. Last chance natin ang Barangay Elections. Kung ang mahalal na Barangay officials ay mga corruot din, lalong walang mangyayari ang Pilipinas.

    4. jose b. taganahan on

      Yes, lets amend the constitution and do away the Senate and also the party list system (the later being the creation of Marcos but adopted by the 1987 Constitution) thus making our legislature a unicameral system and therefore saving time and money in the legislative process. The party list system should also be scrapped because the constituents that these party list representatives are supposed to represent are already represented by the congressmen in their respective place of residence.

    5. i do agree with your idea sir.. each region must be represented in the senate, and also in the lower house congressmen would represent each districts s being done today..gone are the days when there are firebrand senators from the visayas like senator ganzon of iloilo city..

    6. I would like to contribute to this excellent article. While scrapping the Senate is a very good idea, the next time around must be spent overhauling the process that will discourage political dynasties, actors/actresses, entertainers, media luminaries and other unqualified men and women from being accepted as candidates for higher government elected position such as in Congress and Senate. As suggested by the author, senators should be elected similar to what they do in the U.S. wherein, two (2) senators from each state are to represent the U.S. senate. True enough, just looking at the composition in the Philippine Senate makes one vomit; seeing brothers and sisters, actors, media personalities, sons who are elected after their father, as if they are the only qualified among the candidates, a daughter of a VP whose only experience is acting as Social Secretary of the V.P., an adopted daughter of a movie icon who worked as senior clerk in an office in the U.S. etc. I had an American visitor once a couple of years ago who, after I told him who our Senators and Congressmen are said “are those the only qualified persons in your country?” Well said, indeed.

    7. Yes, I am in favor of electing our Senators by Region and abolishing the lower Congress to save on cost. Also, by electing Senators by Region, we can have fewer members of the Senate. This will ensure (somehow) equal distribution of government projects among the regions as well. Likewise, I suggest that maybe we can indicate qualification of candidates in the constitution so that government’s money is not wasted on those Senators who can not even comprehend what “delicadeza” or kapal ng mukha means! Ang yayabang pa!

    8. The number of Senators should have been reduced proportionately with the numbers of regions which is 12 or 13. While Congressmen should have been one for each Province only whose work should only be limited to amending useless laws which are so many and rarely create new ones. And please pronto court decisions should be by jury to prevent decisions which are purely legal but not right. Reynato Puno should include in his people’s initiative the long overdue amendments to the static and inutile current Rules of Court made way back in the 1950s.

    9. Rodrigo A. Fabreo,Jr. on

      This is an argument with common sense. It is really ridiculous to have a Senate whose composition doesn’t really represent the whole corners of the country, not to mention the deteriorating quality of its members. It is high time to scrap it and just have a unicameral system or better still encourage debate as to the feasibility of a parliamentary/federal system of governance, which I strongly believe will mitigate if not correct all these deficiencies of governance. The Filipinos deserve better than what we have now, a presidential form, which breeds corruption.

    10. The proposal to have an upper house based on regional representatives is a good one, and is the basis of the US Senate.
      However, if it is not to become simply a parallel body to the congress, the balance of power has to be shifted, so that its role is a revising chamber, not a blocking one.
      The recent problems in the USA where the senate can block the congress and v.v leads to weak and ineffective government.

    11. Just fire all these bums. They are nothing but self serving, and quick to line up their pockets with cash from tax payers money to sustain their extravagant life style.

    12. Unfortunately all politicians are tarred with the same brush even the Roman Senate’et tu Brutas’

    13. Personally, I have lost confidence in our legislature, particularly the upper chamber. An honest-to-goodness survey among our kababayans, the likes of Berto basurero, Juan carpintero, Buboy magbabagoy, and Maring magiisda, will choose a total return to the pre-Marcos legislature where our deputados and senadores used to get a respectful nod from the citizens as they passed by our palengke, paradahan, and kanayunan. Ad nauseam, that’s how faces and speeches spurting from senate halls are regarded by the public.

    14. Elizabeth Aco-Agbulos on

      I agree , senators should be elected locally, and subject them to recall when they dont perform well.

    15. I agree, any change would certainly be for the better. Two senators per region.

      If I may add, we should also get rid of one person one vote in our electoral process. How we do it? We can start at the barangay level. Every barangay consists of “purok”, each purok chooses its own leader, then this purok leader will be the “elector” that will represent their contituent in the general election.

      In this way only the best, brightest, and the most capable leader can be voted into office by the well informed electorate, also in this way campaigning easier and cheaper.

    16. I agree. The Senate today is not the Senate during the time Don Claro M Recto. They are Senators that truly represent the interest of the Filipino people.

      Today, they (Senate President in particular and most Senators) represent their interest and the interest of the President. They use to used to be independent and come “hell on high water” – they represent the people – their “boss”.

      Look what the Senate President did. At first he does not want Napoles to take the witness stand at the Blue Ribbon Committee. Why? to hide the truth? Remember one thing, during the impeachment trial of President Estrada, most of the Senators tried to hide the truth by not opening the the “brown envelope”. The hiding of the truth, ignited the people to go the street and finally President Estrada bowed to the will of the people – “kayo ang boss ko”.

      Or are they (Senators and Senate President Drilon) wanted to repeat what Senator Avelino said at the height of their power -“What are in power for”.

      Yes, they are in power but the “People” are more powerful.