POSTSCRIPT / October 10, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Limit lawmaking to six months for 50% savings

FREEZE CONGRESS: There is objection, mainly from members of Congress, to a three-point proposal to (1) amend the Constitution before the 2007 elections, to (2) skip the 2007 election of congressmen and senators, and (3) shift in 2010 to a unicameral legislature.

The virtual abolition of Congress during the transition from 2007 to 2010 has many ramifications, but lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal who proposed it focused on its saving taxpayers at least P67.7 billion.

His proposal to do away with Congress for three years was made in light of the fiscal crisis gripping the country. Widespread support for the idea was evident, but this was probably a result of lawmakers’ bad image than the desire to save money.

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PAY FOR WORK DONE: If savings were the only reason, we need not abolish Congress during a three-year transition to a unicameral system. We can do a variety of other things to save money.

One possibility is to pay senators and congressmen only for work done — like everybody else in government and private business. Being public servants kuno , they should not be any different from other civil servants in terms of pay and perks.

After applying the “pay for work done” rule on senators and congressmen, we define their scope of work.

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SIX-MONTH SKED: By definition, the job of legislators is primarily to make laws — not to make bridges and basketball courts and make money on the side. Lawmakers should be paid only for lawmaking, and nothing else.

Then we limit the lawmaking period to six months. Whatever laws still have to be passed will have to run through the legislative mill for at most six months. And lawmakers will be paid only for those six months.

Working for only six out of 12 months will mean savings of 50 percent each year, or half of the present lawmaking budget.

For lawmakers dedicated to their assigned task, six months should be more than enough. After all, we already have more than enough laws. What is sorely lacking is enforcement of the good laws, and this is the work of the Executive branch.

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100-DAY SESSION: Under the 1935 Constitution, which was in effect until Ferdinand E. Marcos changed it to remove the term limit that barred his staying on as president after his second four-year term, the regular session of Congress was only for 100 days, not counting Sundays (Article VI, Section 9, of the 1935 Constitution) .

Of course, there was provision for special sessions being called by the President if there was urgent general legislation still to be done. But even the special session was limited to only 30 days.

Limiting the work period of lawmakers and paying them only for that shorter length of time will not be as drastic as suffering a legislative hiatus by completely doing away with them for three years.

With voters hopefully maturing and with the persistent pressure of public opinion, we could elect only individuals cut out for lawmaking, not trivial pursuits. We would force Congress to focus on its job of making laws, not sowing inanities, dipping into the pork barrel and generally wasting public funds.

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TWO TALES: This being a Sunday, we take from the Internet and pass on two different but related stories to lift your spirit.

Story No. 1 —

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone was not famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire block in the city.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son whom he loved dearly. He saw to it that his young son had the best of everything — clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. He wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

Yet with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he could not give his son, that he could not pass on — a good name and a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. He wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity.

To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great.

So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street.

But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay.

Story No. 2 —

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he saw his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough gas to complete his mission and get back to his ship!

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He could not reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.

There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert the attackers from the fleet. Casting aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted .50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.

Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron turned and flew in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return.

The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on Feb. 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of WW-II, and the first naval aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A year later, Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His hometown would not allow the memory of this war hero to fade, and today O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It is located between Terminals 1 and 2.

So what do these two stories have to do with each other?

Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.

(If you want to check out these stories, go to

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 10, 2004)

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