Can the Senate maintain its independence under BBM’s administration?

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

Independence. That’s the long-held tradition of the Senate. It is something that this institution has largely maintained through the years. It is also what the public expects of it.

The extent of that independence also includes the ability or fearlessness of the senators to choose the Senate president without the interference of Malacañang. On many occasions, and when public interest is at stake, the senators rise to the occasion by standing up to the whims and caprices of the president.

We cannot say same thing of the Lower House, for in that chamber whoever gets the blessing of the Philippine president becomes the House speaker. To return the favor, the Lower House most of the time grants the wishes of the president. But this subservience is also the reason the public has a collective negative perception of our representatives.

It is true that in recent years many people think that the Senate has somehow lost its sheen. It does not anymore shine the way it once did. People lament that it is now populated by clowns, and it looks like it has become a family affair. In its chamber the voices of Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Rene Saguigsag, etc. terrified the people in power.

The Filipinos watched them in great awe as they debated on issues of national concern. This was the kind of brilliance the Senate had before.

Well, it may be true the Senate’s composition is not anymore as grand as before. But I’d say that most senators are aware of what the public expects of them. And that is independence.

Can it be independent under the BBM administration? That is something we have yet to see. We are aware that BBM received an overwhelming mandate from the people. He is a majority president. Simply speaking, he has the support of the people. Will this fact factor in every time a senator makes a decision? Again, that is something we have yet to see.

As of latest count, there are only at least two in the Senate who may be identified with the minority, namely, senators Risa Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel. The rest are either pro administration or not antagonistic to BBM.

It is also worth mentioning that the Senate’s tradition of independence is not a mere matter of power play. It is something that bodes well for democracy. It gives flesh to the principle of checks and balances enshrined in our constitution.

We hope that under the BBM’s administration the three branches of government, namely the executive, legislative, and judiciary must remain independent from each other. This is the essence of democracy.

The executive department cannot forever impose its will on the legislative and judiciary; otherwise, that will amount to an undeclared dictatorship. There is so much expectation of the Senate as senators are chosen by the people. Their stand in every issue must reflect the true will of the people.

We wish our senators the best.


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