Study now, talk later

When then military rebel leader-turned politician Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan earned his spurs in Congress, he was first dubbed “the most studious” as a neophyte lawmaker. Honasan run and won after the erstwhile cashiered ex-military rebel leader was among those granted amnesty in 1992 by former president Fidel Ramos.

The local as well as foreign media hounded Honasan for exclusive interview while he was one of the “most wanted” fugitive military rebel leaders then. But the glib-tongued Honasan changed tact after his first successful run for the Senate during the 10th Congress in May 1995.

Despite being known as the most articulate and mouthpiece of the military rebels, reporters could no longer get Honasan to respond in broader terms to specific questions after he joined the Senate. His curt reply would always be: “I will study the matter first.”

Honasan continued with this tact “to study first” every time he is confronted with controversial issues and topics after President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him to his Cabinet. He served as Secretay of the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) in July 2019 after Honasan’s second and last term at the Senate ended.

He resigned from the Cabinet in December 2021 when he decided to go back to the Senate. Unfortunately, he was among the four Duterte Cabinet officials who run but lost in the just concluded Senate race.

The only Duterte Cabinet official who made it in the 12-man Senate race was erstwhile Public Works Secretary Mark Villar. Re-electionist Sen. Risa Hontiveros is the lone opposition bet who made it.

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Joining Villar in the 19th Congress are, namely: re-electionist Senate majority leader Miguel Zubiri; Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, and Joel Villanueva; comebacking Senators Jinggoy Estrada; JV Ejercito; former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano; Antique Rep. Loren Legarda; and Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero; broadcaster Raffy Tulfo; and, actor Robin Padilla.

Thus, a “super majority” is perceived to be percolating because many of the newly proclaimed Senators-elect won under the UniTeam ticket of presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

With public perceptions shaping up over their potential alliance with the next administration of President-elect Marcos Jr., outgoing Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon gave this un-solicited advice to the Senators-elect of the 19th Congress.

“Be independent. Study hard and be honest in your work,” the two ex-Senate chiefs advised newcomers in the 19th Congress.

Both Sotto and Drilon are graduating from the Senate when their second and last term ends on June 30. Drilon and Sotto served as Senate president multiple times between themselves. Coming from two different political parties, the two Senate leaders underscored the need for the new Senators-elect to study hard before they open up their mouths.

Of the 12 Senators-elect, only Tulfo and Padilla are neophytes. Tulfo run and won as independent. On the other hand, Padilla belongs to the ruling administration party of President Duterte’s PDP-Laban bloc. Padilla will add to the present majority bloc members, namely, PDP-Laban Senators Bong Go, Ronald dela Rosa, and Francis Tolentino.

Interviewed after being proclaimed at the Comelec last Wednesday, the Muslim-convert Padilla proudly acclaimed himself as “the first Muslim Senator after 30 years.” Alas, Padilla put his foot on his mouth. It was less than 30 years ago when the 8th Congress in 1987 had the late Muslim Senator Mamintal Tamano and Santanina Rasul. Subsequently, Rasul got re-elected in the 9th Congress until 1995.

Asked about his choice Senate committee chairmanship, Padilla told reporters he wanted the national defense and security as well as the constitutional and revisions of laws. Perhaps, Padilla was thinking he could get his wishes to head these two major committees for having topped this Senate race.

There are as many as 42 standing committees that will be divided among the 22 of the 24 so-called “independent republics” at the Senate. The Senate president and the Senate minority leaders cannot head any committee but the two highest Senate leaders can sit as members in all of the 42 committees.

A Senator is given one majority committee chairmanship and one minor Senate committee to chair following the traditional “equity of the incumbent” rule. This means a more senior and incumbent Senator is given the privilege of getting first his or her choice of committee chairmanship. “This is to give each and every Senator busy, not happy,” Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III pointed out.

To his credit, Tulfo last week disclosed, he has started brushing up with the Senate rules and procedures aside from other legislative matters he must learn. According to him, he would take up a crash course on public administration. For his part, Padilla assuaged the Filipino people – whether they voted for him or not – that he, too, has started studying the parliamentary rules and procedures under the PDP-Laban partymates’ tutelage.

In the meantime, it would do well not only for the two neophyte Senators to take to heart the practice of Honasan to refrain from talking if they only know too little, or do not understand any better the matters presented before them. It is indeed more polite to say: “I will study the matter”– if only to parry questions, whether it was asked by their fellow Senators, or their constituents, or by media, or by whoever.

From hindsight, there is indeed wisdom for being a “studious Senator” like Honasan. It will serve well all our lawmakers for that matter, if they ask for more time to study first the subject matters or issues at hand. Doing so, could help them a lot in the discharge of their duties and service to the people.Study for now and talk later.

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