by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera
I was surfing the world wide web last night when I stumbled upon an interview I gave in The Correspondents show entitled Ang Laban Ni Noynoy that was shown when Noynoy Aquino launched his candidacy late last year.
I argued in that show (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzDRZgzvZ6A&feature=related) and (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKBZx0tC9RY&feature=related) that Noynoy's legislative performance paled in comparison with the other presidential candidates and that the fact that he has not produced a single law will be raised against him as the campaign period shifts into high gear.
As expected, his poor legislative record has become an extremely heavy albatross that has weighed down his campaign. Many columnists and bloggers have made fun of this situation by saying that the much maligned Senator Lito Lapid is more qualified to become President than Noynoy Aquino because he has, at least, produced one law (RA 9999) that would give tax perks to private law firms that render free legal service to poor clients.
In a portion of his official website called The Truth About Noynoy: Huwag Magpalinlang Sa Mga Sabi Sabi (http://www.noynoy.ph/anti-smear/), Noynoy Aquino's supporters answered the question - Wala ba Talagang Nagawa si Noynoy sa Lehislatura? - this way:
"CLAIM: Walang ginawa si Noynoy habang nakaupo sa senado, at hindi sapat ang kanyang mga hinain para sa serbisyong pampubliko.
TRUTH: Senator Aquino’s legislative record is filled with laws that push for transparency, accountability, curbing corruption and leveling the playing field so that special relationships do not take precedence over quality public service. A good lawmaker must not be judged solely on the number of laws penned, but the quality of these laws in the interest of the public good. Congress is a democratic institution that is also meant to guard against government excesses. Aquino believes we already have many good laws, and what is needed is proper enforcement."
There is something wrong, funny, and misleading about this statement.
1. Official records of the Senate and House of Representatives show that none of Noynoy Aquino's principally authored bills have been enacted into law. Then how can his official website say "Senator Aquino’s legislative record is filled with laws that push for transparency, accountability, curbing corruption and leveling the playing field..."?
A bill is not the same as a law. Thousands of bills are filed every year but very few of these bills get enacted into a law. Bills become law because their authors work hard to pass these through committee, defend its merits on the floor, get their colleagues to vote for their bills on second and third readings, and work with their House of Representatives counterparts to reconcile differences in the Senate and House versions.
Is this poor staff work or simply an attempt to mislead the public?
2. "A good lawmaker must not be judged solely on the number of laws penned, but the quality of these laws in the interest of the public good." True. But if a lawmaker has not even passed a single law, how can he be judged whether his laws are in the interest of the public good?
3. "Aquino believes we already have many good laws, and what is needed is proper enforcement." He may believe this, but this is not a factual statement. Let me enumerate several important bills that need to be enacted into law but continue to languish in the Senate because Senators have been unwilling to act on these:
- The Omnibus Amendments to the Local Government Code (Senate Bill No. 1161) that would correct many of the problems facing the country such as the rampant conversion of municipalities into cities and promote more devolution;
- The National Land Use Code (SBN 3426/843/641/82/76) which would serve as a blueprint for the prioritization and utilization of the country’s land and resources, protect agricultural lands from industrial activities as well as residential conversions, and delineate environmentally protected lands and indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.
- Civil Service Code of the Philippines (Senate Bill No. 1162) that professionalizes the government bureaucracy and protects it from political interference.
- Freedom of Information Act that will allow citizens to access government documents to combat corruption and hold government officials accountable for their actions.
And the list goes on and on and on...
Poor staff work? or Misleading public relations spin to hide poor legislative performance?
You be the judge.