For clarity’s sake, whenever I write “FMD,” I’m referring to Senate President Franklin Magtunao Drilon, although the initials are more popularly known to stand for Foot and Mouth Disease. With this issue cleared, let me go to the plunge in FMD’s approval and trust ratings in the latest survey by Pulse Asia.
The dip in FMD’s ratings is to be expected after the Senate was severely divided and tarred by the pork barrel issue. In fact, I predicted that the Senate of the 16th Congress would be worse than that of the 13th. The Senate of previous congresses suffered diminished public approval near their last regular session but that of the 16th got the blow right on its very first—and it hasn’t improved any as it enters its second.
As Senate head, FMD is held responsible by the public for any adverse issue besetting the chamber. The decrease in approval and trust ratings is as much an indictment of the divided Senate as of FMD.
This said, I like his reaction to the results of the Pulse Asia survey. “We take the result of the latest Pulse Asia survey as a challenge to improve our performance. We at the Senate are even more inspired and invigorated to heed the people’s call for genuine and lasting reforms and in passing legislation that will better serve the interests of the Filipino people, sustain economic growth, enhance government transparency, and eliminate corruption,“ he said in a press statement.
Wait, I heard that from him before in September last year when he spoke of his and the Senate’s lower public acceptance and trust ratings caused by the pork barrel controversy! Their ratings have even sunk lower, showing that they haven’t done enough to regain the people’s trust and confidence. They are now in their own version of “last two minutes” and hopefully, for the good of the nation, they could really pass needed legislation.
My unsolicited advice to FMD is for the Senate not to wait any longer wait for signals from President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino 3rd before acting. Its woeful performance hasn’t been helped any by the failure of the President to identify his legislative agenda and really push for them. Perhaps, we shouldn’t expect BS Aquino to be zealous on legislative matters. After all, his knowledge of legislation is very limited despite his nine years at the House and three years at the Senate.
The Malacañang tenant has shown that he could get things accomplished when he wants to, as in the enactment of the Reproductive Health and Sin Tax measures and the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Unfortunately, he hasn’t pushed equally for the passage of other bills like the amendment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (everybody, please stop saying Epira law), the Anti-Trust Law, the strengthening of the Public-Private Reform Act, the ban on political party turncoatism, the Freedom of Information Act, the Modernization of Pagasa, the Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, Fiscal Responsibility, and the Land Use Policy among others.
Waiting for Malacañang to breathe
The Senate should act pronto on these measures, especially that on amending Epira if it wants to regain public trust and confidence. Senate President Pro Tem Ralph Recto has urged Malacañang to submit its “electric bills” to Congress as soon as possible so that legislation needed to prevent power price spikes and blackouts in the future can be hammered out. Well, Congress might have a long wait for such submission by Malacañang. Reforms in the power industry aren’t even in the agenda of the administration that has expressed helplessness in stopping power rate hikes.
In his very first State-of-the-Nation Address, BS Aquino called for the passage of an Anti-Trust Act to enhance competition, prevent monopolies and cartels and give more opportunities for small and medium enterprises to contribute more for the growth of the national economy. That call was well-applauded. That was more than three years ago. The applause is long gone, and so is the administration’s move to have the bill enacted. Why doesn’t the Senate under FMD make its passage a priority despite the coolness of Malacañang for the bill?
Some 15 senators including FMD gave up their pork for this fiscal year. That’s a good start. They should follow this up by pursuing priority measures even without nudging from Malacañang, which may not come at all. (The Palace might echo the words of DILG Sec Mar Roxas: “Bahala na kayo sa buhay n’yo!”)
But even if they do, they could be in for another storm when they tackle the proposed legislation to give flesh to the still-to-be finalized peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front. That will be a real national splitter.