POSTSCRIPT / June 6, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Fond sendoff for 6 outgoing senators

THIS FOND farewell that Sen. Grace Poe delivered Tuesday for six colleagues leaving the Senate this month should be heard/read in full to appreciate its style, nuanced revelations, plus its hints of past and possible future alliances, but space limitation forces us to boil down its 1,500 words to fit our corner.

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When the roll of the 17th Congress will be called for the last time, the names of six of our friends and colleagues will be mentioned with distinction. They are Bam Aquino, JV Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, Greg Honasan, Loren Legarda and Sonny Trillanes. They are graduating with honors.

They may not be physically here in the next Congress but each of them will leave behind a body of work so expansive in scope, so enriching in purpose, and so progressive in nature that their presence will be felt until they reclaim their place again in this chamber.

For theirs, I believe, is a short sabbatical from this institution but not from serving the people.

Senator Loren is leaving the Better House for the Bigger House. Senator Chiz will have his hands full balancing the competing demands of being a part-time governor and a full-time husband. Senator Greg joining the Cabinet says jokingly he is not the first soldier who will rush toward danger.

And of course, Senators Sonny, Bam and JV will continue with their advocacies. Because holding a public office has never been a prerequisite in pursuing a calling. As they take their leave, let them be remembered for the public good of the laws they have written, the enlightenment of their pronouncements, and the light that their investigations shone on the dark moments of our times.

Presidents will come and go, political winds will change, but Senator Bam’s Free College Act will continue to help Filipinos earn higher education and learn skills to better chart their future. On a personal note, I am forever grateful to him for without his crossing party lines for principles, I would have not been a senator anymore.

And when one gets sick, he will be thankful for the comprehensive reseta Senator JV has written for fast and free treatment, the Universal Health Care Law. Clearly, the good one is behind great laws. I’ve never seen somebody as hardworking, and willing to be there for a committee hearing quorum. He amazes me with his knowledge of airports, trains, and other modes of mass transportation.

Senator Loren’s prodigious output is as textured as the native clothes she elegantly wears and carries. Her beauty will not be surpassed. She has woven a tapestry of laws as diverse as battling climate change and balancing the budget. As finance committee chair, she made possible the funding of social protection initiatives of this administration – including universal healthcare, the pay increase of soldiers and government employees, and in my case, the free lunch program in public elementary schools.

Senator Greg’s working style breaks every rule in a politician’s playbook. The last politico to shun social media, he proudly wields an analog phone. Yet he is, as someone has pointed out, the silent workhorse in a stable of prancing show horses. His first-rate mind is imprinted in the laws that he wrote and sponsored.

Some may not agree always with the approach of Senator Sonny, who is courage personified. He’s unafraid to speak out even on unpopular issues. We need dissenting minds, for without them we will not be challenged to think beyond our comfort zone and realize what really is essential. I thank him for being the voice sometimes of many of us who only squeak.

Senators Sonny and Greg sponsored Joint Resolution No. 1, for pay increases of military and uniformed personnel. Hindi nila kinalimutan ang kanilang pinanggalingan, ang kanilang mga kapatid. Kaya ang sabi ng aking seatmate, maraming na-rerecruit si Senator Trillanes, hindi ko lang alam kung anong pakahulugan no’n pero walang masama doon, tumutulong lang siya.

When I was newbie candidate and senator, Senator Chiz showed me the ropes in campaign work. Today, he remains a call-a-friend kind of a consultant. I have learned many things from him, mostly good. He sponsored bills in assembly-like fashion but not once did he sacrifice substance for speed. With his searching mind, Senator Chiz can find the most obscure details in the law, even the nuances. Many statutes have been improved by the Escudero touch. I remember him as the spokesperson of my father, who stayed with us during the dark times and never left. As he likes to say, “Dapat lahat, may Heart.

Pero siguro sa mga nabanggit ko, lahat halos ay mayroong relasyon sa akin pagdating sa aking ama. Ang Vice President na kandidato ng aking ama ay si Senator Loren. Ang mahal na inaanak ng aking nanay, si Senator JV, talagang tumulong sa kampanya ng aking tatay. Si Senator Greg, isa pong kasama noon ni FPJ, ewan ko kung gusto pa niyang maalala ‘yon pero ‘yan ay totoo, tumulong rin. At siyempre, si Senator Chiz, kaya pagpunta ko po sa Senado, lalung-lalo na, nandiyan si Senator Sotto, na naging campaign manager ng aking ama. Si Senator Nancy, kahit nag-iba kami ng landas, ang kanyang ama ay nakasama rin ng aking tatay. At ‘yung tatay ni Senator Joel, naging adviser rin ng tatay ko. Hindi na po iba ang mga naging kasamahan ko dito kaya medyo naibsan ang aking kaba.

They may have been affiliated with a party or allied with a president, past or present, but every time they showed up for work here they did not deposit their principles at the door. By and large, they have let the interest of their constituents and the spirit of the Constitution—and nothing or nobody else—guide their decisions.

Every vote they have taken was in obedience to their conscience and not to the command of someone. They have lived up to and sustained the Senate’s cherished role as a bulwark of independence where every proposal that comes before it is freely and, if need be, fiercely debated.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 6, 2019)

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