Seeing a Senate debased from within » Manila Bulletin News



John Tria

By John Tria


Watching the much anticipated Senate hearing that saw a face-off between Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Senator Antonio Trillanes i got many calls from Mindanaoan friends with pretty much the same comment: “What’s happened to the Senate?”

Of course, while some were amused at the antics of Senator Trilllanes, others lamented that with this exchange the Philippine Senate has gone from a fount of wisdom into a gossip pit.

These questions are a commentary on two levels: coming from Mindanaoans there is always a subtext which tells you that the Senate, as they have known it, mirrors a collective of the capital’s political interests – to advance the political sense of an imperial Manila at their expense.

For example, over the last thirty years, was it true that on average Mindanao got only a fourth of the national budget while Luzon and the NCR got half?

Unlike the house of representatives that shows clear representation of their localities (perhaps not always their interests), the Senate, though elected at large, is for many of them a body set apart with a wisdom that they cannot feel emanates from them.

In the last 30 years, how many senators ever came from the island? Despite being elected at large, it is seen as a foil against genuine representative democracy. In turn we have had comedians and action stars, and their children take those august seats. Can they adequately consider Mindanaoan sentiments in the proposed legislation they push or evaluate?

The second level reflects a hankering for the premarital law Senate of old, for the wisdom of Tanada, Diokno and Rodrigo. The lost eloquence and sense of the pre martial law senate, and the one immediately following the EDSA Revolution (that cast away the US bases) is no longer the same character we see in the present upper chamber.

Today, people have begun to see the Senate as a joke, where crass politics combine with the call for bare backs and tattoos, implied testimony, apologies and retractions, and self-prepared spreadsheets are used, purportedly to craft new laws.

Recent Senate hearings have become a national spectacle where truth and fact are shoved to the back seat to allow political grandstanding to go up front.

Just how much of their time and money is spent on senate hearings containing these to duplicate and i dare say, prejudge actual investigations is a question on many people’s minds.

All of these leads many in Mindanao to imagine a polity without a Senate, where one truly representative legislature can muster the response to deal quickly with the needs of a growing island, a rebuilding from the ashes of conflict, and the balancing of development, peoples rights and welfare, and the demands of sustainable development in the country’s gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia now brimming with opportunity.

Mindanao Business Broadens in Cagayan

As the Mindanao Business Conference drew to a close in Cagayan de Oro City last Saturday, participants noted how much this annual event has raised the level of discussions about Mindanao’s business. Congratulations to the Cagayan de Oro Chamber for pulling it off.

With this event, Mindanao business has encountered a renaissance over the last few years. Noteworthy is that with the Duterte presidency, investors have given the land of promise a second, deeper look. Monitor the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) growth rates for all Mindanao regions over the next few years. It is likely to rise steadily as peace with former rebels create the opportunity to plant and harvest more food and host new industries.

Thus, with the increased connectivity with flights and shipping routes, the Mindanao railway and the opening of new malls in key cities over the next few months show a robust economy growing even further, as the rebuilding of Marawi gets under way.

Another major upcoming business event is the Davao Trade Expo on September 21-23 at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City. It hopes to top the more than 8,000 visitors recorded in 2015. Likewise taking place is the first ever Davao Tourism Conference on September 22.

With business events such as these, the outlook is about as bullish as the forecasts of ratings agencies booking increased GDP growth for the country well into the next two years.

Seems like all the political noise isn’t enough to dampen this growth.


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