• Why not elect senators by region?


    THE Philippine Senate is the only one in the world with members who are elected at large. This makes running for the Senate a very costly affair and the proclamation of winners a protracted endeavor.

    Ironically, the senators who are elected at large are still considered local politicians. Invariably, they are continuously linked to their province or city of origin. Whenever Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile stands up on the floor, he’s usually addressed as “the gentleman from Cagayan.” Sen. Chiz Escudero is addressed as “the gentleman from Sorsogon,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as “the gentleman from Taguig,” etc.

    Woe to the senator who doesn’t pay most of his attention, including allocating the largest “pork,” to his place of origin for he would be branded as without a sense of gratitude or of belonging. Senator Chiz, for instance, is getting faulted for failing, true or not, to give full attention to Sorsogon and the Bicol region. Manila Mayor Erap Estrada cited this as the main reason why he’s supporting Sen. Bongbong Marcos for vice president instead of Senator Chiz.

    When a senator gets elected at large, his main focus should be on the nation and not on his province or region. But since we can never separate the senators from their region, why not elect them by region? A regional election of senators will assure the representation of every region in the Senate and cure the flaw of the current system, where some regions are over-represented while a number haven’t had a senator for long stretches of time.

    Eastern Visayas has suffered the longest from the injustice bred by the election of senators at large. Do you know that the last time a senator from the region got elected was 61 years ago? Sen. Decoroso Rosales won in 1955 but failed in his reelection bid in 1961. There have been notable/popular sons from the region who ran for the Senate and lost. Among them were Charlie Avila, Raul Daza and actor Cesar Montano.

    Now, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and former Leyte Governor/former Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla are running for senator. Petilla is running under the administration ticket. He withdrew from an earlier stab under the aegis of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and endorsed instead the candidacy of Cesar Montano. If the electorate could only commiserate with the Eastern Visayans, they would vote for either of the two.
    Hopefully, it will be Romualdez, whose family showed strength of character during the Yolanda tragedy.

    Muslim Mindanao hasn’t been represented for quite a while although not as long as Eastern Visayas. The last Muslim senator was Santanina Rasul. She won a five-year stint in 1987 and got reelected to a three-year term in 1992. (Only the first 12 of 24 senators got six years in the 1992 election). Her brother, former Sulu OIC Gov. Almarin Tillah and daughter Aminah Rasul both ran for the Senate in separate elections and lost.

    The self-acknowledged “world’s poorest sultan,” Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram 2nd, lost his bid in 2007. In 2010, noted lawyer Adel Tamano was thought to have an excellent chance of breaking the Muslim jinx but fell short.

    This coming May elections, DILG Assistant Secretary for Muslim Affairs and Special Concerns Nariman Ambolodto is included in the senatorial slate of the administration.

    The candidates from Eastern Visayas and Muslim Mindanao stand a better chance if senatorial elections are divided into regions. Add to this the possibility that more achievers from the region would be encouraged to run. For instance, Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario of Davao del Norte may have no chance of winning as senator in a national election but he’s a cinch to win in a regional election. The same can be said of former Sen. Juan Zubiri who’s seeking to regain his seat, or his father, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Rubin Zubiri Jr.

    Toots Ople of Bulacan will be unbeatable in Central Luzon, what with her championing the cause of Overseas Filipino Workers and labor. She’s waging a valiant quest for one of the 12 seats up for grabs this May. Then, there’s former DILG and former Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan of Bacolod who could ably help others in representing the newly created Negros region in the Senate.

    Conversely, some well-known entertainers would find it hard to win in a regional election for senator. I remember the case of comedian Bert “Tawa” Marcelo, who lost to Obet Pagdanganan for governor of Bulacan. Had he run in a nationwide election, Marcelo would have been a sure winner.



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    1. mario de porres on

      It’s naive to think that a senator will have the urge to serve the entire country just because the whole country voted for them. Election of senators by region, district, or island grouping, is a better option than our current system

    2. I think the best solution is to divide the senate electorate, 8 from Luzon, 8 from Visayas, and 8 from Mindanao, in this case you have a parity of senators or senaTONGs from each region like the US, where in California, the largest state ( populations of 38 millions+ )have two senators just like the state of Rhode Island ( populations of less than 1 million ).

    3. Abolish the Senate.

      It merely duplicates what the Lower House does.

      The bills it passes has to have a counterpart bill from the Lower House which then goes to the bicameral conference committee to be discussed before it is brought to the Palace for the President’s signature or veto. Such a waste of time and resources!!!

      Why not use the Senate’s budget to build more hospitals and schools and staff these with well trained and highly paid teachers?

      Would this be not a better allocation of our meager resources?

      Let’s get rid of the politicians and bring in the public servants who provide healthcare to our countrymen and educate our young so they can become productive members of society and, in the process, alleviate poverty rather than this 4P’s program that merely breeds mendicants among the poor.

      Rene Moral

    4. mario de porres on

      Felix Servidad – a bill favoring a region in Vismin might get shot down by senators from Luzon, but in our current system, such a bill would not even enter the minds of our Manila-based senators. Yes, let’s elect senators by region or at the very least by island grouping. Our current system greatly favors incumbents, past senators, and celebrities due to name recall. The 1986 Constitution is a seriously faulty document

    5. That is why a shift to a federal state is necessary, sa unitary system you cant obliged Senatorial candidates to run by region, kung anu gusto nila yung ang gagawin nila because di naman bawal e… kung regional representation maganda talaga and the powers of the government will not be centralize on one place only… nagmumukha tuloy imperyalista ang MANILA…

    6. Mark Laperal on

      Good suggestion, but it will not solve our many persistent problems. What we need are honest to goodness elected senators and congressmen who will serve the country regardless of region. True legislators and possibly president who will serve the country to the best that they can.

    7. Regional representation will also reduce chances of celebrities winning. It will reduce cost, and redistribute campaign resources by reducing the influence of national TV networks. But why are we not going to parliamentary system altogether?

    8. And if I may add, since we love to copy many things US made, might as well give permanent job to Vice President. In the US the Vice President is also the senate president.

    9. Lendry Obaña on

      Dear sir:
      That’s a great recommendation, a true representative of the people. I think it is possible to include it in the ballot as a referendum.

      It could curtail some corruption and abuses of public fund. Sort of like how they elect senators in the USA.

    10. Felix Servidad on

      That would be great because in every province someone can represent them, but that would be very difficult to passed in Congress because it will shoot down by politicians from Luzon. Maybe that will happen only if Duterte got elected and succeeded of making Philippines a federal government.