The steep fall in the acceptance rating of the Senate reflected in the latest survey isn’t surprising. Many previous Senates’ ratings had also suffered from such a low public perception. What’s most surprising is that this steep fall comes right on the very first regular session of the 16th Congress. I’ve never seen a Senate get such a low esteem when it had barely started its session.
Observers had previously considered the Senate of the 13th Congress (2004-2007) the worst since the revival of Congress after EDSA 1. (Then Sen. Edgardo J. Angara said that the appellation “worst” should apply to the entire 13th Congress but some leaders of the House said that Angara should speak only for the Senate.) The Senate of the 13th Congress had little to show in accomplishments and no wonder because it was saddled by frequent intramurals among the politically divided senators. Well, the Senate of the 16th Congress under Senate President Franklin Magtunao Drilon (FMD) could even be worse than the 13th.
The wrangling among senators so early in the 16th Congress does not augur well for the next three years. And the controversies focused on the abuse and misuse of the pork barrel is much much more blood-curdling.
This low regard for the Senate of the 16th Congress has not been helped any by the fact it still hasn’t identified any legislative priority. Oh well, blame it on President BS Aquino who simply refuses to convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council. On second thought, I should not blame him. After all, he has limited legislative know-how despite his nine years in the House and three years in the Senate.
Speaker Sonny Belmonte crowed over the fast passage on third reading of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). News reports said it took the House only about an hour to pass it. If you ask me, this is not something to crow about. It bespeaks of a chamber that has completely ceded its inherent power of the purse to Malacañang. I don’t expect anything better to come out from the Senate. I remember that in 2010, when FMD was chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, he even asked senators not to amend the 2011 budget as proposed by BS Aquino. The supposedly independent senators acquiesced.
As it turned out, while BS Aquino didn’t want his budget to be touched by the legislators, he didn’t want to implement it either, resulting in billions of “savings” that he realigned with gusto. As a senator, he regarded any impoundment of the budget by then President Arroyo as a diminution of Congress’s power of the purse. Now that he’s president, he’s even defending it. So what else is new?
That nothing much has changed except the administration could be gleaned from these observations made by FMD more than six years ago: “The Filipino people have suffered so much in the hands of political leaders who only have their personal and selfish agenda at heart.
“Today, there is an urgent need for a moral and spiritual renewal. Truth, integrity, and accountability must be the basic tenets of our leaders. For when a government is robbed of integrity by its leaders, the people have no bright future to look forward to.
“Massive corruption, the unrelenting pursuit of personal interest by a few men in government, the unremitting violation of human rights and the bad choice of leaders—all this would keep this nation in the road not of excellence but of mediocrity.”
These observations of FMD could be very well applied by observers on the Aquino administration. Despite the President’s repeated big talk about reforms and his total war on corruption, nothing much has really changed. Corruption still permeates the government, with BS Aquino even accused of bribing senators and congressmen with pork barrel.
Things could change if the bills against impoundment become law. Then, the President could no longer deviate from the budget approved by Congress. Lawmaking is a tedious process, however. There’s a possible short-cut—put a special provision in the 2014 General Appropriations Act controlling the impoundment of funds by the executive department.
An Associated Press report about a 14-year-old boy accused of killing a popular high school teacher in a Massachusetts town caught my attention—the boy was named.
This isn’t possible in our country whose lawmakers consider only the age of the offender and never the gravity of the offense. Here, the name and photo of a young offender will never be published even if the crime committed is heinous. We should stop this miscarriage of mercy for young killers or merchants of death and follow the dictum: “He who commits adult crime should serve adult time.”