Two Senate probes and the rising stock of Senator Risa

BAR NONE - Ian Manticajon - The Freeman

The recent Senate investigations serve as a lesson to people who have become hopeless about the future of our political system. One investigation serves as a good example while the other investigation serves as a poor example.

I’m referring to the hearings by the Senate Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality Committee, chaired by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, on the POGO hub in Bamban, Tarlac, and the hearings on the PDEA leaks by the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, chaired by Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

It is obvious by now that the Senate hearings led by Hontiveros’ committee has resonated well with the concerns and interests of the public. On the other hand, the Senate hearings conducted by Dela Rosa’s committee have floundered, exposing the good senator’s inexperience and lack of adeptness in steering legislative inquiries that are worth the nation’s time and attention. It didn’t help that the investigation was marred by suspicions that it was a poorly-planned demolition job against President Marcos.

It was a pity that this Senate probe led by Dela Rosa was one of the contributors to the demise of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as Senate president. The poorly-executed hearing eroded Zubiri’s leadership position, making him appear unable to control or guide his colleagues into worthwhile legislative inquiries. Whether Malacañang had a hand in Zubiri’s ouster or not, it became easier for Zubiri’s rivals to remove him from the Senate presidency in the eyes of an unsympathetic public.

As regards Senator Hontiveros’ legislative hearings, people still talk about the issues raised in the investigation, particularly the citizenship of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo. The mayor has raised eyebrows nationwide, not for anything based on racial prejudice, but rather on her inconsistent statements, as well as her appearance and demeanor relative to what is typically expected in the context of Chinese-Filipino identity.

According to a friend who was otherwise disinterested in politics until this issue, Mayor Guo looks like a “mainlander”. By mainlander, my friend said Guo acts and looks like she came from mainland China, whatever that means. Despite Guo’s calm and unaffected demeanor in the Senate investigations, Senator Hontiveros, through her incisive yet respectful questioning, exposed Guo's inconsistencies and incredible claims.

This investigation has also raised the political stock of Senator Hontiveros. An unsolicited comment from another friend of mine the other week surprised me. She, who had voted for Marcos and Duterte in the last elections, suddenly blurted out that she really admires Senator Hontiveros.

I think this is a lesson to politicians and their supporters. Voters are not as dumb as many might think. If you work hard and focus on doing your job the right way, reaching out to people and colleagues in charming and sincere ways, as Hontiveros has been doing for many years as a senator, people will reward you with their support.

We should never lose hope in our people’s ability to choose good leaders. Voters may disappoint us with their choices, but I think that is also largely because good leaders, I mean the relatively honest and competent ones, are often disappointing in how they conduct their politics. Some lack the skills to enter into strategic alliances. Others assume things will work out by themselves as long as they adopt good governance. Politics does not work that way. It requires a combination of diligence, adeptness at using one’s charming qualities, sharpness of mind, and the ability to read people and situations accurately. I believe these are the qualities that made Senator Hontiveros the lone survivor of the opposition in the 2022 senatorial elections.

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