Dateline Manila: Pork barrel scam did not cripple the Senate PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 June 2014 11:26

BY Sammy Santos


Although a bit late, allow me to express my condolences to the Society of Jesus and to the family of our dear friend Fr. Randolph “Randy” Lumabao who passed away in Malaybalay City last May 17, 2014.

At the time of his death, Fr. Randy was the Jesuit Superior of the Bukidnon Mission District and not the manager of the Jesuit Retreat House there as I erroneously reported on my Facebook account.

A true-blue blooded Zamboangueño, Fr. Randy, 59, entered the Society of Jesus on May 30, 1979, and was ordained priest on April 8, 1989. He served in several apostolates of the Philippine Province Jesuits and was named to his Bukidnon post in 2010. He was a member of the Province Commission on Ministries.

Fr. Randy was the valedictorian of Ateneo de Zamboanga (ADZ) High School Class 1971, and taught theology before he joined the Society of Jesus. According to reports, Fr. Randy was found on the floor of his room in the Jesuit Retreat House, apparently after having suffered a major heart attack. Rushed to the hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival. Fr. Randy had been dealing with some health issues in the past few years.

Although six years my senior (I belonged to ADZ HS Class 77), then-just-plain Randy was part of that laughter-loving gang that roamed the ADZ campus in the early 1980s. We were called alternately the “Campus Dogs” and the “BKT” fraternity (BKT being Beta Kappa Tuli, our patented parody of Greek-letter fraternities at that time) Along with Randy, the ring leaders were Dean Emir Españo and then campus genius Leopoldo “Poly” Huang.

Michael Regino, Gino Españo, James Makasiar, Rey Patron, Joel Fabian, Eric Despalo, Rey Dagoy, Freddie Galvez, Gary Quebral, Bong Rolda, Pepe Friere, Ting Manginsay, Fabian Francisco, Mike Baños, Joseph Lee, Tomas Mian were among the notorious members of the gang. Of course, we had as among our well-respected advisers the likes of Loyo San Juan, Dicky Limbaga, Noning San Juan, Danny Siason, Pochoy Tantoco, Ricky Enquirez, Shing Balatbat and the well-esteemed Shiek Salih Bagis. Ahh, those where the days.

Randy’s favorite greeting in campus then was “Ya toma ya tu? (Have you had your drink today?)”

* * * *

While the Janet Napoles pork barrel scandal rages, questions have been raised if Congress, particularly the Senate, has lost its relevance in our democratic setup and suggestions have been made that perhaps Congress should be abolished altogether.

More specifically, questions are asked about the Senate’s ability to enact legislation while most of its members are embroiled in the controversy of the many “Napolists” being peddled by people eager to hog the headline for their own selfish reasons.

Despite the brouhaha, Senate President Frank Drilon, who has taken up the cudgels to defend the Senate as an institution, assured the Filipino people that the chamber remained capable to enact legislation needed by the nation.

“Despite the issues facing certain senators, we have remained focused on our legislative work so as not to derail the approval of important measures that we are deeply committed to pass for the benefit of our people,” Drilon said.

According to Drilon, the Senate’s close coordination with the leaders of House of Representatives, particularly with his counterpart House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., expedites overall legislative performance.

A perusal of official records will show that the Senate of the current 16th Congress has outpaced the legislative output of the Senate in the previous ones.

During the first regular session of the 15th Congress from July 26, 2010 to May 14, 2011, only two measures were enacted into law, five bills approved on second and third readings, and one treaty was ratified. While for the same period in the 16th Congress, five measures were enacted into law, six were approved on second and third readings, and three treaties were ratified.

Among the bills signed into law by President Aquino are the 2014 General Appropriations Act, the P14.6-billion supplemental budget as well as a joint resolution extending the validity of the 2013 calamity and quick response fund in order to capacitate government’s rehabilitation program in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda, and the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Also enacted by Congress and signed by the president into law was the measure establishing the Maritime Industry Authority. The Senate passed on third reading four bills, including the Freedom of Information bill, which would be a strong deterrent against public corruption once enacted into law.

Also passed in the Senate was a bill promoting micro, small, and medium enterprises and the measure mandating telecommunication companies to send free mobile alerts to subscribers in the event of disasters and calamities.

Moreover, the Senate concurred in the ratification of treaties with the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (UK), Spain, and India to boost government’s effort to fight criminality, especially those related to child trafficking and prostitution.

Two weeks ago, the Senate approved a bill that will strengthen the Sandiganbayan in its mandate to curb corruption and a measure extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways. The Picture-based Health Warning on Tobacco Act is currently in the period of interpellations on the Senate floor. Before it adjourns next week, the Senate intends to pass 16 more priority bills.

In light of the pork barrel controversy, the only way the Senate could regain the people’s confidence and trust is through genuine hard work. As Drilon puts it, “This means we must not fail in our mandated task of passing meaningful legislation that would sincerely elevate the quality of the Filipino life.”

Definitely, there is no truth to the rumor that Janet Napoles and her ilk crippled the Senate.