Time to revert to a unicameral congress

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Next year's budget will be delayed again because the House and the Senate have serious disagreements. If you ask me, it is very expensive and inefficient to have a Senate and a House that are often at loggerheads, trying to outshine each other, while the whole nation is suffering from endemic poverty and mounting challenges to health, food security, economic crisis, not to forget many continuing threats to national security, and external foreign policy issues.

If we audit the performance of both the Senate and the House, we shall find too many expenses in outrageous salaries, indecent allowances, controversial pork barrels, and highly questionable perks granted to people who might not, in the first place, have deserved to become one of the 24 senators or one of the 304 representatives at all. The Senate asked for a P9.09 billion budget but was only given P7.79 billion, which means that the honorable senators wanted to spend almost two billion more, which the DBM found incongruous. Such a blatant attempt to mock the sufferings of the people, with an ostentatious squandering of public funds should be shocking to the conscience of any one. The House demanded a whopping P17.705 billion, but the DBM demolished their profligacy, and reduced it to only P15.24 Billion.

My proposal is to revert to unicameralism, with only 100 senators, at the most, elected by region for a term of six years with only one term each. And the law should limit the cost for each legislator to only P1 million per month, or P12 million per year. That means only P1.2 billion per year or P7.2 billion for six years, for the entire assembly. That is cost-saving compared to the combined budget of P23.03 billion for only 2021. Many of these politicians who spend more time investigating, rather than legislating, should start thinking of transferring to the national prosecution service or to the judiciary.

Unicameralism is more efficient, more expeditious, compared to the disorderly and duplicating processes we have today. The most despicable example of duplication of functions was the recent upsurge of legislative investigations. The senate investigated ABS-CBN and PhilHealth, and the Lower House also did exactly the same. Then they came up with two reports that were not similar. Every time a law is to be enacted, both houses have their own respective versions and thus, they need a bicameral conference, equivalent to a third chamber, to reconcile their petty and often politically-motivated and self-serving differences. These are done all at the expense of the peoples' taxes.

History has a lot of precedents for unicameralism: The National Assembly of 1898, as well as the first, second, and third Philippine legislatures from 1907 to 1912 were unicameral with membership not more than 80. The National Assembly in 1935 was unicameral. The 1973 constitution created a Batasang Pambansa, which was unicameral. In 1986, the 50 appointed members of the constitutional commission almost adopted unicameralism, but bicameralism won by a very slim margin of only one vote. Our own Hilario Davide Jr, Regalado Maambong voted for unicameral. Had Napoleon Rama joined the two, it would have been a tie and Concom president, Cecilia Munoz-Palma, would break the tie and she was known to be for unicameralism.

For our own general welfare and for the good of our posterity, we need to come to our senses, and elect only one legislature, one Philippine Senate, with 100 senators. Four senators from every region multiplied by 17 regions, or only 68. The rest shall be sectoral senators, two each for only 16 truly marginalized sectors. We can not afford a Congress as big as that of the US. We are a poor nation and we do not need 304 noisy or lazy congressmen or 24 “papogi” senators. We should live within our means.

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