The Philippine Senate, Then and Now.

Roughly 100 years ago, we had our first Senatorial election in which our forefathers decided to seat 24 gentlemen from all around our nation to help our then President Emilio Aguinaldo run the government, and not so distant from now (less than a month) we will again, decide to elect 12 of our senators, with the same purpose, hundred years back.

But, what was the difference back then, when seating a senator compared to now, is there a big difference or everything remained the same?

Let us see.

The first senatorial election was held on October 3, 1916 after the passage of the Jones Law, an act that created the Philippine Senate. Before the act was passed, it was the sole discretion of the President to seat whom he, or his faction, feels is capable in helping him in running the government. But with the law enacted, it was the first time in our history to give the power to the people to choose their own senators.

Also, our first senators are representatives of our 12 regions, like a congressman today, since the lower house was not yet commissioned before, making the balance of power in every provinces and regions. Included in that batch was our eventually 2nd president Manuel Quezon, who was also the first Senate President of our Country.

Quezon was the most popular senators before, not only because he garnered the most votes in his hometown, but he was also one of Don Emilio Aguinaldo’s closest ally and friend, before they have fallen apart due to Aguinaldo’s decision to heavily side with the Americans when the 2nd Presidential Election was coming.

Aside from him, majority of our first senators were also War veterans like Pedro Maria Sison who had represented La Union, Pangasinan, and Zambales, Isauro Gabaldon from Nueva Ecija who had represented Region 3, and Francisco Villanueva from Ilo-Ilo city who had pushed the envelop in order to include the Visayas region in the first Malolos Congress.

These gentlemen are not only war veterans, who had put their lives in line for the love of our country, but also lawyers and statesman by profession. Don Pedro Maria Sison had a province under his belt (Sison, Pangasinan more popularly known as the last stop and first bus stop of buses, mostly Victory Liners, to and from Baguio City) and Gabaldon Nueva Ecija after the late Statesman Isauro Gabaldon.

To add, during the first senatorial election, we only had 2 political parties which was Nacionalista and Progresista unlike today we had tons of them, which only makes the choosing very difficult but also gives avenue to undeserving candidates to run for the seat like most of our senators and politicians today (local and national).

That being said, let us look now into our current Senate as well as have a glimpse on the latest survey of the front runners for senators.

Now, out of the 24 seats, we only have 7 lawyers and two of the most brilliant minds to ever graced the Philippine Politics were on their twilight years, Juan Ponce Enrile is at 92 years old and Miriam Defensor-Santiago is at 70, who is also running for the presidency but is the last, according to the latest survey. The current Senate President Franklin Drilon, the Cayetano Siblings, Chiz Escudero and the BAR top notcher Koko Pimentel completes the list of the Senator Lawyers.

If you may ask, am I being biased to lawyers, yes, not that I am one, but as a Senator, I think, he who understands the law can and will make better laws for the land, the learning curve will be shorter compared to those who have difficulty in understanding it, this is not an absolute truth but a mere observation of the author, and probably majority of the thinking voters of the land.

Aside from the 7 Lawyers, to somehow complete the list of our senators, we 3 have former movie action stars (Lapid, Revilla, Estrada), a business mogul (Villar), a daughter of a longtime politician (Binay), 2 former rebel leader (Trillanes, Honasan), an anchor woman (Legarda), 2 sons of former Philippine president (Ejercito, Marcos), 3 sons of former senator (Guingona, Angara, Osmena), Cousin of the current PNoy (Aquino), a former senator and host of Eat Bulaga (Sotto), daughter of the Philippine Action Movie King (Poe), and husband of the Philippine’s Star for all Season (Recto).

It was arguably, if not the, one of the most diverse pool of senators we had since its conception 100 years ago, but the sad thing was, they only lived half (or even less) to the expectation of bringing different hats and tricks on the table, but was blemished by the very different propagandas, scandals, and personal issues.

Nonetheless, we will cut half of them, in the coming days, and try to replace them with a better version, hopefully, but judging from the latest survey, we might be having another zoo for senators, hopefully not.

First on the survey was Tito Sotto (God bless Aldub), then by re-electionist Franklin Drilon, and familiar faces up until the fourth. Coming in five is (Lord have Mercy on us) Filipino Sensation and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, who was not only known for his speed and left hook, but also for his absences as a congressman. As per the record, he only went inside the Batasang Pambansa, this year alone, 4 times, but unfortunately he is ahead, in fact way ahead of senatoriables who are far more capable than him like Isko Moreno, Toots Ople, and Jerico Petilla, to name a few.

Going back to the list, second timer (hopeful) Risa Hontiveros, who is known to be  an ally of the progressive group Akbayan, who are known to purposely disrupt presidential speaking engagements, form unorganized movements against all the presidents, vandalize government properties, etc. etc. is seventh from the list. If my calculations are correct, she will be the first person from the activist group to have a seat in the senate, and the saddest part is that we might be funding their rallies and whatnot along the way, so God Help Us.

On the brink of the list was former DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima, who was not only a Lawyer but a worker as well. Giving her the credit, she had worked her ass of as the Justice Secretary, and I think, she can hold herself as a senator. Unfortunately, like 9th front runner, Joel Villanueva, they have been tarnished with their political ads, who might have been our money, but who gives a rat’s A anyways. No One but a few of us.

I might be on the edge of judging their capabilities and characters but you can’t blame me, I guess, because of the past. We had better senators then who had the chance to shape our nation into greatness but opted not to, and with these list, I can’t argue anymore. I hope I am wrong.

Let us all vote wisely, let us pick the most competent of the candidates and not the most popular, because at the end of the day, competent beats the popular, all day.

Political Mudslinging, A Very Old But Effective Tactic?

Three weeks from now, we will once again try our luck to sit a President, and leaders, we think we deserve, since the 1986 EDSA revolution. I think everyone will agree that we have been in pursuit of the “messiah”who will save us from the mess that we are into, with just a flick of a finger (which will not, and will never, happen).

When Gloria Macapal-Arroyo ended her 9 year reign, we thought it was Aquino, but sad to say the only plan he had in mind is to run after GMA, who had not been his enemy when he was a senator. Well, except for the trimmed down (but not eradicated)  corruption, he had no other accomplishments, like his…. never mind.

Anyway, not to dwell on that sad situation, with the candidates we had for now, it seems that we have a candidate whom we had been looking for. A strong, Steel willed, and charismatic leader, the Iron hands of Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

With the election time looming, the momentum shifted to his side, overtaking the long time leader, Senator Grace Poe, who is mind you, denounce his Filipino Citizenship a years back for a green card. However, the momentum had taken a pit stop these past few days because of his remarks on a crisis in his city in 1989, which includes a raped and murdered Australian missionary.

And like what the dirty tactic suggests, all of his opponents saw this as an opening and has been throwing truck loads of mud at him, for the obvious reasons of course, of which is expected of them, since the Mayor is way ahead of the race, but will they succeed? they might, who knows?

Off note, aside from the foul mouthed gentlemen from Davao and the Senator Traitor, we also have the very honest and anti corruption VP Jojo Binay, Former Many Sec. and very desperate Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (I will not say anything against her with the fear of the obvious reasons and the fact that as a person and a writer the author is but a dust to her, delikadesa).

Going back, mudslinging is not new in the arena and in fact, Former President Manuel Quezon used the tactic to outrun the then overly popular Gen Emilio Aguinaldo, during the Commonwealth era.

Manual Quezon threw the “Bonifacio Bones” to the former General and President of the First Republic, which eventually led to his downfall. Aguinaldo had no other bullet in his arsenal against the Bones of the Supremo, which has made the voting public shift sides heavily, that led into Quezon’s landslide victory over Don Emilio.

Will it work this time against the Fearsome leader of the Davaoenos or will it just add fuel to the growing fire on public interest in him?

Well, we would not know until May 9th, and at this point, the best thing to do is just sit back and enjoy the scene. who in this world is not entertained after all?

Commission on Appointment, Irrelevant Then and Now?

Did you ever wondered why the late Jessie Robredo has been functioning as President Aquino’s DILG secretary but was never confirmed by the Commission on Appointment until his demise a couple of years back? Well, sad as it may be, the late Secretary is only one of the thousand government officials who are functioning as one but on papers are not, and the saddest part of it was it has been happening since the time of Emilio Aguinaldo.

For the benefit of the few, the Commission on Appointment is composed of Senators and Representatives, well not all of them but some of them. The commission is being headed by a Senator (more frequently by the Senate President) which is most likely an ally of the President. Officials go goes through the process are Cabinet Secretaries, Heads of other Government branches, AFP and PNP officials, etc. etc.

Can you just imaging, AFP and PNP officials being appointed by a Commission oblivious of their capabilities and not by merits, this alone gives you a glimpse of how ineffective and irrelevant the Commission is, but like what has been said before, this has been happening since our forefathers and like now, it has the same effect, Irrelevant and biased.

When this concept was penned, during President Aguinaldo’s reign, most members of the his government were his allies and most of them are illustrados and persons from the higher echelons of the society both in names and riches. These people are responsible for Apolinario Mabini’s axing in Aguinaldo’s cabinet, and to make it worst, they did it by tainting his image as a paralytic (and to even make it worst (yes its just a tip of the iceberg) they started a rumor saying that he got paralyzed because of Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease).

A couple of hundred years after, nothing has changed, everything remained the same, why?

Why? You’re guess is as good as mine.

Are We Discrediting EDSA? (Looks Like It)

Aree we forgetting what happened during the Martial Law to think that it’ just been roughly 40 years since it happened, to make matters worst, we had EDSA. EDSA should have or is helping us to remind what really happened during that era and the action we took to overcome that. But how in the world we are forgetting what our parents, titos and titas, ate and kuyas done in the most famous avenue in the country?

It is out in the open what transpired at that time, the corruption, the cruelty, the killings, the missing persons, name it, but how come the younger generations (including my era) are easily forgetting these unfortunate events?

I am not sure if destiny is making fun of us but take a look at this irony, during the Martial Law, we have a Marcos as a President and an Aquino as a Senator and viola, as of press time, we have an Aquino President and a Marcos Senator, which is most likely to be a Vice President (which will eventually, if he wins the seat, eye for the highest position in 2022).

Are the Marcoses returning to power after all the things they have done in our country? Are we going to just throw those things away and let bygones be bygones? How about the families who had lost their lolos, lolas, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. etc. etc. etc.? In vernacular, “ganun na lang ba yun?“.

Since we are a nation that is fond of pointing fingers, when something went amiss, let us do it with this discussion, for argument sake, or to make this entry longer, which ever is more appropriate.

The Past Presidents. The former dictator was exiled (with his immediate family) in 1986 and died shortly afterwards due to lupus, a kidney disorder. The remains of Marcos was first interred in Hawaii but was given clearance to be brought home just 7 years after the People Power Revolution (where every Filipino wanted him dead), by the then President Fidel Ramos (who had been a high ranking military official during his regime and was one of the first Marcos loyalist to turn the table against his boss). There were also talks for the former Ilocano President to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, during the Estrada and Arroyo administrations. Although when President Aquino won the 2010 election, the talk died, but the front runner of the presidential race is openly talking, if and when he will win the presidency, he will have the remains of Marcos laid in the famous resting place.

Technology. Before, we only had the TV, Radio, and Prints as a source of information (if you count your neighborhood “chismosa” as a source of valid information then so be it), those mediums can (and were) easily controlled at that time, reason why the nation had a limited information to sensitive facts such as classified data and insights from political experts. Fast forward, thanks to social media, everyone is now a historian, an expert, a guru, and so on and so forth. To make matters worst, a Marcos Loyalist, who had no voice or medium back then, can now easily create a fan page in various platforms to project the Marcoses as heroes of the past and the Aquinos as the real traitors and enemies.

The Aquinos. The Cory administration went after their ill gotten wealth, and in fact, commissioned two agencies the PCGG and CHR with the purpose of running after the Marcoses (which has been, and still are, the most ineffective and inefficient government agency since its conception). Unfortunately, after 2 Aquino Presidents, majority of the alleged ill gotten wealth still sits with them (Marcoses), and the true killer and mastermind of their patriarch’s (Ninoy Aquino) assassination is still at large (or probably dead but was never tried in any court), not to mention that they are returning to power.

Education. During my student days, I had never read a book (history) where it says that the reason why we had EDSA is because of Marcos’ cruelty, it focuses on the Peaceful Revolution and not on the Martial Law, it was targeted on the outcome rather than the problem and the solution itself. The Marcos Regime (on my own opinion) can be classified as one of our darkest eras, similar to the Spanish and Japanese regime where cruelty and ruthless killings were stated in our history book, which made us aware of how horrifying those days are, but it was different during Marcos’ time. To make matters worst, a Grade Five History Book in our schools says that the reason why Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 was because of frequent flooding and typhoons, very sad, they have killed history, and an Aquino (PNoy) let it happen, what a shame.

Now, where am I getting at? I don’t know and I have no clue, or maybe there is actually no argument with this piece but just a simple essay on my feelings about the impact of the EDSA revolution in our current and upcoming generation (if the essence of it is still alive).

One more thing, aside from maybe letting the true value and soul of EDSA live a very short life, is that we had done it again a couple of years back hoping that better things will come the morning after, and yet knowing that it will never come/happen.

Not The Andres Bonifacio You Knew

From the time Philippine history was introduced as a subject, Katipunan’s Andres Bonifacio was portrayed as an uneducated, hot headed, and poor commoner who had enough of the Spanish abuse, reason why he went at arms with them (prematurely) in 1896. However, according to accounts of the Supremo’s closest relatives, friends, and former wife, he is not the person that our textbooks have been projecting the moment it was taught inside the classroom.

According to his closest friends, the Supremo had jobs as a sales man, a storekeeper, an agent (just to name a few) for foreign companies in Manila before the war broke in the late 1800s. With this information at hand, it only not meant that he had a very good means to provide for himself and his family but he is also good in Spanish, which is at that time, the international language in the Philippines.

It was also portrayed that Bonifacio was a no-read-no-write lad, but based on his wife’s account, Ka Oryang’s parents (most especially his father), is not in favor with his then “nobio/nobyo” because he was a Freemason, which was then had a very bad image, thanks to the religion that we had at that time. If you were to analyze the situation, back then (up until now), Freemasons was a secured organization that only accepts educated and middle to upper class members of the society (Rizal and Mabini was one of them). That being said, Bonifacio is far from the illiterate poor “bodegero” that our past historians have projected.

In addition, aside from being a Freemason, he was also a La Liga Filipina member, which means that he had access to the doors of the “illustrados” and had known popular persons in the society such as Jose Rizal and the Luna brothers.

Bonifacio, like Rizal, was a wide read person and in fact, some of the books that Rizal had or read was the same books that the Supremo had and unlike Aguinaldo, who had admitted publicly in an interview that he never read any of Rizal’s book (Noli and El Fili) because he had a small (if not none) command of the Spanish language, Bonifacio read and was inspired by El Fili who at that time was in full Spanish transcript.

Based on his relatives’ account, Bonifacio was not only fluent in Spanish but other language as well such as French in which he had read Victo Hugo’s Les Miserables and the French Revolution books, that ignited the fire in him to finally take up arms against oppression.

Clearly this accounts and close to facts evidences only showed that the Andres Bonifacio hero we knew from Delos Santos, Zaide, Agoncillo is a total 360 degree person from the real one. Based from the jobs he had as a salesman, a clerk, a messenger, a storekeeper for a foreign company showed that he was not a commoner but in fact a well bred gentlemen.

Another interesting fact by Supremo’s younger sister, Espiridonia Bonifacio, is that the account of their business (selling fans and canes) was thriving, because she remembered that the price of their canes at that time were bought at around 50 to 100 pesos (it wasn’t clear if by bulk of individual, nonetheless, it was a serious amount of money back then)

However, do not be confused of Bonifacio as a haciendero or an elite, Big NO! he belonged to a middle classed family who can eat at least  3 meals a day and sometimes can buy things they need or want. One fact that can and will attest that Bonifacio belonged to the B class of the society is that he nor his family had no hacienda or mansion unlike the Rizal estate in Calamba and the Aguinaldo shrine in Cavit, or the Luna Mansion in Ilocos.

In all fairness to the Philippine Government, there were efforts to locate for his house or ancestral home, but most of them burned down or ruined during the American-Spanish War. The surviving houses, where the Bonifacio’s (Andres and Ka Oryang), lived were marked by the Government’s historical commission to commemorate the Supremo.

In hindsight, since winners writes history and clearly Aguinaldo won his battle against Bonifacio, did he intentionally portrayed the Supremo as his own image that was tweaked a little bit as poor commoner to capture the hearts of the common masses?