MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senate President Franklin Drilon on Monday asked his colleagues to set aside politics and work together to renew the Senate amid the controversies it is facing.
“My dear colleagues, let us set aside 2016 and work hand in hand for the rebirth of the Senate,” Drilon said in his speech during the opening of the 2nd Regular Session of the 16th Congress.
“I view this day – and the days, weeks and months ahead – as our opportunity to recover the people’s faith in their Senate, regain their trust and revive their confidence. Though not within easy reach, I believe that with hard work and perseverance we would in time walk past the difficult path ahead,” he added.
Three of its members – Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. – are currently detained in connection with the pork barrel scam while the chamber is also under scrutiny over the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program fund.
Drilon said he is saddened about the year’s events. “It pains and saddens me to witness and bear that the events in the past 12 months, the intense public beatings, the avalanche of intrigues and the arrows of insults shot into our gates, may have succeeded in reducing the worth and the weight of the Senate in the minds and lives of our people,” he said.
He encouraged the senators, as public servants, to remain receptive and tolerant of criticisms. However, Drilon said they should not allow Senate to be casually scorned as it remains a constitutional body entitled to respect, even if some of its members may have been found to have erred through their individual acts.
“I believe that it is the incumbent duty of each one of us to defend this institution from groundless and reckless assaults against its very dignity and integrity. We owe it to this chamber to combat falsehoods concocted by cowardly minds who spread their lies through proxy voices and pens; to speak up for the Senate even when it may seem to be more politically convenient and safer for us to be silent, to just wait for the tempest to pass,” he said.
Drilon said the recent developments should be an opportunity for the Senate to deconstruct its system, identify the flaws in its approach and remedy it with new practices that will inculcate a culture of public accountability.
He said the senators should work to make the Senate “a model of good governance and public accountability. A Senate that will listen and respond to the clamor of the people. A Senate that would guard and perform its constitutional mandate and powers with renewed zeal.”
He noted that although the Senate declared the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF or pork barrel fund) unconstitutional even before it was declared so by the SC, the act was not recognized.
“Nonetheless, what matters is that we took serious account of what the people said and clamored for. And we will continue to do so,” he said.
Moving forward, Drilon said the Senate will prioritize legislation that would stimulate the economy and generate more jobs, promote fair competition in business, increase the take home pay of workers, strengthen the campaign against graft and corruption and criminality, expand access to health and education, and protect the country’s territorial sovereignty.
“As we begin the process of enacting the 2015 national budget, let me emphasize that we will not shirk from our constitutional mandate. We shall wield our power of the purse. We shall craft a budget focused on spending on the right priorities and with measurable results, keeping in mind our goal for inclusive growth,” he said.
He added that the Senate will work on the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is seen to put an end to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.
“It is our hope that Malacañang can transmit to us the proposed basic law as soon as possible,” he said.
Drilon assured the public that Senate will stand in solidarity with the Filipino people.
“Admittedly, instituting reforms to create a better society is an enormous task. We need your help and cooperation. We need your trust,” he said. (MNS)