JR Lopez Gonzales 12:48 PM 1
“If this is the kind of hostile, belligerent attitude we bring to our debate, then all of us should resign immediately!” – Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago, in a televised senate session in late 2009.
|A bill to be passed costs 105 million pesos.|
It can be said that the Senate is one of the most respected institutions in the country. It is the venue where legislators, majority composed of lawyers, debate, make, and pass laws. By far, ten of our presidents which apparently includes the current President Noynoy Aquino, came from the Senate.
But on a closer look, one can infer that there seems to be a problem on this pillar institution.
I remember a broadcasted senate session months before the Presidential election last year. While it should have been a discussion on making laws, there existed a personal verbal wars between Pimentel and Roxas largely about the “insertion issue” on the C5 road. A lot of investigations also, were marred with controversies such as that of the investigations on Fertilizer Scam and the ZTE Broadband Deal, yet
While it is indeed the job of senators to investigate, Mon Casipe, the Executive Director for the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, believes that the investigations were becoming more and more politicized. Back in the glory days of Martial Law, statesmanship can be seen with the powerful speeches of the late Sen. Pepe Diokno and Sen. Ninoy Aquino. They came in prepare as compared to most of today’s speeches filled with ad hominems.
In an interview by GMA News to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, he says that the reason for the alleged long sessions is due to the allocation of time for investigations and hearing. This article does not simply asks if the Upper House is a waste of time, but also if they waste time. But true enough, I believe they got too indulged with sensationalized issues that they fail to prioritize other bills. (Did I mention the CARPER bill which was deliberately ignored by the Congress for numerous decades, now?)
On the other hand, the process in making a law sure becomes so expensive. Way expensive. According to the Department of Budget and Management, on the General Appropriations Act, a total of 3.8 billion pesos was spent for the 13th Congress while the past 14th Congress has a whopping 5.7 billion-peso budget.
According to the Senate Legislation bills and Index Service, there were almost four thousand bills filed last year. But out of this number, only 54 were enacted to law. Imploring the aid of a little division, one can infer that a law to be passed costs P105,000,000. No wonder the pork (Priority Development Assistance Fund) is porkier than ever.
Another issue that is worth inspecting is the misrepresentations at the Senate. As laid down by Convenor, Leonor Briones of the non-governmental organization called Social Watch, 82% of the Senators are from the NCR and Luzon. Seventy-four (74%) are from political clans. This can be affirmed with a similar study indicated on the book The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and the Well-Born Dominate Congress (Coronel, et al., 2007), while most Senators are first generation politicians, 13% are 3rd Generation Politicians, and 8% are second-generation politicians.
To make useful laws is the primary concern of our Senators that would alleviate the thousand and one problems we have in this country. Is the Senate and its members a waste of time (and money)? History will be the one that will judge the performance of the Senate in the coming years.