The Senate as I see it



My first job was as a researcher in the office of then Senator Ernesto “Boy” Herrera, when the Senate had its second life in the hallowed hall of the Executive Building in Manila.

Listening to the speeches of our senators during the Salonga era was like listening to a symphony where every note played was a tribute to freedom, with themes much bigger than one’s ego. I remember my boss, Senator Herrera, standing behind the podium while the “Benjamin of the Senate,” Sen. Joey Lina, asked probing questions on the death penalty bill.

I sensed the physical pain in my principal’s legs from hours of standing up, and witnessed his tight and determined grip on the podium. These men were fighting for what they believed in, and their passion knew no boundaries. That was then.

My father, the late senator and Senate President Blas F. Ople, measured his every word, mindful of the weight of that institution. He was so proud to have been part of an institution known for its independence and lofty ideals.

Fast forward to the current Senate, and I am at a loss for words.

I saw a Senate inquiry that drew evidentiary blanks from a self-confessed murderer’s testimony about people he allegedly killed when he was a member of a group he called the Davao Death Squad, when President Duterte was then mayor of the city.

In post-hearing interviews, members of the Senate had to quarrel over the need to extend protective custody to the lead witness, a cold-hearted man who spoke about feeding people to crocodiles as if it were just any kind of diet.

If they were so concerned about that person’s safety, then why at all give him the opportunity to speak in broad daylight with his face documented by every news channel, knowing that his testimony was against, well, just the President of the Philippines.

Oh, but wait. None of the other senators were told earlier who the resource person for that day was, not even the co-chair of the Senate investigation, Senator Panfilo Lacson. It seems that the two senators who knew who Edgar Matobato was, were Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes.

It appears to me that someone or some people fed Matobato to the crocodile on that fateful day, and please know that I mean to say that in a purely rhetorical sense.

After all, he was under the Witness Protection Program for three years when the Department of Justice was led by then secretary-now-senator Leila de Lima. Certainly, three years would have been long enough to build a case, if any, against an incumbent mayor given the gravity of his allegations.

None of us even knew that a certain Matobato was with the DOJ’S Witness Protection Program until after the secretary has become a senator.

I’d like to ask the senators what they do intend to do with Mr. Matobato because clearly, he did implicate himself with murder. While the Senate considers giving him protective custody, how sure are we that he won’t turn to the life of crime once all these hearings are over?

How sure are we that he won’t go after detractors in the media, whether traditional or social media, for comments that were unfavorable to him or to his patrons, whoever they may be? This man kills for a living. We don’t.

I have great respect for our senators as individuals, but I do care about the institution. Next month, the Senate shall turn a hundred years old. That kind of history must not be taken lightly by the select few that were fortunate enough to have been elected to walk its powerful corridors.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd would have to rally the senators to a much bigger cause of keeping the integrity and dignity of the Senate as an institution intact.

The people are hard at work, making ends meet, and doing their best to contribute their own little efforts to help change the country. They don’t wake up in the morning praying to see a senator reach out to turn off his seatmate’s microphone. Or turning on the radio set to hear a senator take forever in interrupting a resource person’s testimony.

We deserve a Senate that is mature, responsible, and forward-looking.

We deserve a Senate that is independent and yet, collegial and cordial.

We deserve a Senate that makes us feel safe and secure knowing that its learned members are working just as hard to give us better laws.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives shall begin its own probe about the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the state penitentiary. We all know who will be the target of this inquiry. It saddens me to no end that instead of an illustrious start, we are confronted by such bloody and dark conversations.

I do hope that President Duterte would convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) soon because we can’t always be living in the past. If we keep going back, how can we ever find the time and energy to move forward?


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  1. Maribel A. Calanda on

    With all these things happening in Congress, the great President Marcos is correct in declaring Martial Law and abolishing Congress. He exercised both Executive and Legislative powers, issued many Presidential Decrees with the help of a few lawyers from UP. Nakatipid pa ang bansa. Hence, walang pinapasweldo na sa Congress, the government was able to build the infrastracture the country badly needs. To date, they are all existing and the Filipino people benefit from them. The Presidential Decrees issued by Marcos were never repealed by Congress after its existence again in the last 30 years. He has even crafted more laws than both chambers of Congress. What a shame! It only follows that the man has an outstanding mind only a few can match or can never match at all. True, he has flaws but who does not have? He is only human after all. President Duterte should establish a revolutionary government for his life is threatened and the years that passed show that the heinous crime changed its face with the entry of illegal drugs and the protectors are even people in government.

  2. Lets reserve our time and energy right now if the president will declare revolutionary governement. Those hubris in the senate can no longer wag for grandstanding and those who just create a scenario will ceased because she had unfinished bhsiness with the president. All these immature showmanship of our elected officials will ceaseed and no longer useful after the declaration of revolutionary government. We are not going backward as what is happenign now but stopped and reconficure the right approach with the right few people to start by formulating the kind of governemnt that is suitable and sustanable that cater to trait customs and traditions. Like the saying ” look back enought to realize and look forward for the future”.

  3. The problem is the senate is full of pork barrel thieves and party lapdogs. The Aquino allies who took kickbacks from giving Napoles billions of the pork barrel money were not charged by the Justice secretary and now senator De Lima.

    Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes. employed 55 consultants with his senate budget including his brother who received 70 thousand a month. Seems his only job was to discredit presidential front runners to aid the Liberal Party. Smearing the opposition like Binay then switching to smearing Duterte when he started topping the surveys.

    Sotto, Chairman of the ethics committee

    Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is on the Napoles list giving his pork barrel funds to Napoles in exchange for kickbacks and he is chairman of the ethics committee.

    Senator Vicente Sotto III

    Agent: Jennifer “Jen” Corpuz

    Napoles then detailed 7 amounts totaling P225 million channeled through the NLDC from 2010 to 2012. “In all these transactions, the sole person I talked to was Jeniffer (sic) Corpuz.”

    “At one point, she asked me for a Hyundai Starex that she said will be given on the birthday of Senator Sotto’s wife.” Sotto is married to actress Helen Gamboa.

    She said in all transactions, Corpuz asked for 40% for Sotto, and 10% for herself.

    Senator Loren Legarda

    Agent: Catherine Mae “Maya” Santos

    Napoles said Santos acted as agent for Legarda’s project worth P24 million. “The other project was P50,000,000 and P5,000,000 implemented through NLDC.”

    Napoles said Santos got 50% of the project cost as rebate but she did not know how much Santos gave Legarda.

    “[It was Santos] I talked to because I do not know Senator Loren. She was the one offering, processing papers, and having the documents for the projects signed. In my estimate, she got almost P39,500,000 just for this project.”

    If this is what passes for honorable then disband it.