Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Who Needs 24 Senators?

“The Senate is a place filled with goodwill and good intentions, and if the road to hell is paved with them, then it's a pretty good detour”. – Hubert H. Humphrey

In our present Legislative Branch set-up, we have 24 senators who seats at the upper chamber of the house of Congress. This arrangement was adapted from the 1940 amendment of the 1930 Constitution. Changes were made on the number of years a senator should “served” and how many times he/she should be re-elected. But the number of senators occupying the chamber remains the same.

In the 1930 Constitution, it was explained why we have 24 senators:
“The 24-man Philippine Senate was represented by two Senators from each of the 12 senatorial districts into which the country was divided.”

Who Is Representing Who?
Why we need two senators to represent each “district” is beyond me. Perhaps it was designed as an afterthought that a district will still be “well represented” in case one of the two senators is incapacitated. Or maybe we are just too lazy to think and just copy the US setup of two senators for each state without thinking a little bit beyond.

Speaking of “representation”; what district or region does our current crop of senators represents? I can claim two of them to hail from my region. But does anyone represent, let’s say, Caraga or ARMM? For all I know, most of them represent NCR.

In the Philippine context, senators do not represent any place or anybody. That’s the job of congressmen - they represent districts within regions or “marginalized sectors” of society. Senators are there to make or approve bills in to laws or act as “fiscalizers” to anything their whim desires. No matter if the subject is significant or inane, as long as it’s controversial and gains “political mileage”, they’ll scrutinize it.

Are They Necessary?
IMHO, if we take to task what these senators are supposed to be, 17, one representing each region, are more than enough to put the upper house in order, promulgate laws or make a monkey of themselves. Why not trim them down and let them work hard for those “allowances” we gave them. It also saves us a lot in terms of pork barrel allotment. Their elective office should be regional and not on the national level. Their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) should go nowhere else but for the benefit of their respective regions.

It may seem not much but, at the very least, it helps minimize the malady our government is perennially susceptible to. Come to think of it, we don’t need any of them, if we adapt a parliamentary form of governance.

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