Is the Senate doing its job?
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2020 - 12:00am

President Rodrigo Duterte will stand out as the leader who had the courage to take on the Philippine oligarchy.

More generally, an oligarch is a “member of an oligarchy; a person who is part of a small group holding power in a state.” Aristotle gave the concept of oligarchy some negative connotations, but the term does not necessarily imply wealth.

There were other presidents who attempted to do the same but they were stymied by the power of the so-called “free press.” Among them was former President Diosdado Macapagal who tried to cut that power to be able to do government reforms. This he could not do with oligarchic control and the bribing of officials of institutions.

The joke was the only “free press” is that which is owned.

That PRRD opened his SONA with Franklin Drilon, is right to single out the “sleeping” senator who lives in Greenhills, as it is a reminder of what Filipinos already know but are helpless to undo because of the unfortunate structure of government.

Perhaps the President should have stressed on a pressing need of the country on another issue to the legislators. It is about access to the internet. This is a problem that puts us way behind our ASEAN neighbors. It is a common complaint suffered by individuals and businesses even here in the country’s capital Manila. They also complain about the cost and speed of our access. This comes from the Philippine Development Plan and augurs badly. How can we compete when our download speed is the slowest and most expensive among our neighbors in ASEAN?

What is worse, according the World Bank, about 40 percent of our fellow countrymen still don’t have access to the internet. This means that while schools are closed children have no means to do online learning.

I agree with the President that our incumbent providers must do better, but it is not their job alone. Here I think Congress has been absolutely deficient. The Philippine Development Plan of 2017-2022 already outlined the legislative priorities that we need to achieve our developmental goals. Of them I would consider the Public Service Act and the Open Access Data Transmission Act all about creating more competition critical to achieving the ultimate goal of getting more inclusive, lower cost and faster service to people.

I read an article in which some senators said that government agencies and telcos should work double time to improve service. I hope that when senators talk about the government, they understand that the Senate is a branch of government and they will not be working double time but triple time to get these acts passed, otherwise their words are mere grandstanding.

From what I hear, it is the Senate itself that has been blocking the passage of these reforms. We talk a lot about a free media and its importance to a well-functioning democracy. I’d like to see a lot more journalists calling out senators for making inconsistent statements that simply don’t jibe with their voting records. Otherwise we will keep on voting for people who simply represent the interests of the elites and not the people they are supposed to represent.

Ignore the press releases,­ look at the voting records. But that takes an enormous effort, time and research, people don’t have the time nor can they understand what pieces of legislation with arcane titles like “Open Access Data Transmission” mean for them. That’s the role of the media. I think we’re failing our public if we don’t.

MISCELLANY: PRAYING IN PEACE

Many Filipinos, especially Christians, did not know why it was a holiday yesterday. This is the day Muslims pray inside the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila on July 30, 2020, a day before they observe Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, which President Duterte had declared a regular holiday.

The feast recalls Abraham (Ibrahim)’s willingness to sacrifice his firstborn son Ismail (Ishmael) to God, but was told to sacrifice an animal, most likely a lamb. It also marks the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

In issuing Proclamation 985, the President cited Republic Act 9849, which provides that Eid al-Adha shall be celebrated as a regular holiday.

The declaration is based on the Islamic calendar. This year, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos has recommended that the Eid al-Adha be observed on July 31.

“The observance of Eid al-Adha shall be subject to existing community quarantine and social distancing measures,” Duterte said in the proclamation.

Eid al-Adha is one of Islam’s two greatest feasts, along with Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

The Islamic festival commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command.

Eid al-Adha lasts for four days and celebrates the end of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage by millions of Muslims around the world to Mecca. (Sourced from Wikipedia.)

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