Saturday, March 27, 2010

Noynoy Aquino's Legislative Performance

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.

12 comments:

  1. 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...
    Irony. I love it. To point out that Lapid is more qualified to become president based on laws passed says a lot about the how-many-laws-passed metric for becoming president and about those that espouse this ridiculous metric. Ninoy Aquino passed one law. Did that make Ninoy Aquino unqualified to be president?

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  2. I think you missed my point Jego. I did not say that Lito Lapid is more qualified. This is what other critics say.

    The first and most important job of a legislator is to file bills and pass these into laws. That is their Constitutional task in a Presidential system. That's why they are called "mambabatas".

    To say that "how many laws passed is a ridiculous metric" begs the question - So how do you measure the performance of legislators then?

    I am not saying that Ninoy Aquino is not qualified because he only passed 1 law. I would measure his qualifications (as I am now) against other candidates running against him. And if his legislative performance pales in comparison, then I would say he is not the best choice.

    And since you brought up the issue of Ninoy Aquino, here's what the venerable Ernesto Mata had to say about a Ninoy-Noynoy comparison in his column:
    http://www.malaya.com.ph/02092010/edmata.html

    "Many political observers wondered why? He spent 11 years as congressman and senator, but they noted, he did practically nothing in government service. "Noynoy has no sterling performance and for this reason, he is accused of being ‘walang alam’ and all he could do was co-author bills for legislation."

    Another analyst recalled that "Ninoy Aquino, as then senator, he became a leading light of the Opposition, and authored a milestone of a bill called ‘Study Now, Pay Later Plan’ that would enable deserving students to pursue their dreams with loans from the government."

    "In contrast, Noynoy does not have an advocacy. He stayed in Congress for almost three times longer than his father, and his record is a pale shadow… a mockery of his father’s achievements. For this dismal record, why should we reward Noynoy, a non-achiever, the presidency?"

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    Replies
    1. At least ngayon alam na ng mga karamihan sa mga di bulag na Pilipino ang katotohanan na indeed abnoy nga si Pinoy.

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    2. Does this guys still respond to comments in his feed?

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  3. Rest assured, I got your point just fine, Mr. De Vera.

    One may measure the performance of a legislator by how many quality laws he or she has authored and his or her performance during deliberations on laws up for debate, whether authored by said legislator or not. However, Aquino is not running for legislator. To extrapolate his performance (or as is your point, his non-performance) as a legislator might make sense on the surface, but is not reliable. Unfortunately, whoever is up for the presidency is measured by intangibles. Case in point, Cory Aquino. She was nobody and yet she arguably kept the country together during the post-Marcos years. Before running for the presidency, her claim to fame was raising her kids despite her husband's incarceration.

    Plus, you have a Senate composed of traditional politicians whose idea of reform is to appropriate more power unto themselves and artistas who are just there for the ride. I'd like to think that not getting a law past these people is a definite plus. :-D

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  4. So you don't think we need a Freedom of Information Law that will allow citizens to secure government documents to stop corruption?

    A person should be good, even excellent, in what he is currently doing to convince others that he should be entrusted with the mandate of people. That is the mark of leadership. Noynoy is a senator now, he must be judged in terms of his legislative performance.

    As I asked in my comment (which you did not respond to), if you dont want Noynoy to be judged by his paltry legislative record, then how do we judge his work as a Senator?

    And by passing judgement on the Senate as "composed of trapos", aren't you in fact passing judgement on both Noynoy and Mar Roxas as Senators? Or are they supposed to be treated differently again?

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  5. Following your logic of the Senate as composed of trapos, then Frank Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, Serge Osmena, and Ralph Recto, all Liberal Party allies of Noynoy should not be supported in May 2010?

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  6. So you don't think we need a Freedom of Information Law that will allow citizens to secure government documents to stop corruption?

    Non sequitur. I believe in a Freedom of Information law.

    I understand a need for a metric with which to judge candidates for president. But voters dont have the information. For example, a presidential candidate should pass the corruption test. If the candidate is a corrupt politician, one shouldnt vote for him. But how does the average voter know for a fact that a candidate is corrupt? All he has is a smell test -- if the candidate 'smells' like a corrupt politician. Data in the statement of assets and liabilities could be looked at, as well as public records, but does the average voter have access to these, and even of they do, do they have the time and resources to do a thorough study? Or do they rely on media, which have their own manoks, being humans as well and therefore subject to the quirks and foibles inherent in Philippine politics.

    As for legislative performance, your only metric is number of laws passed. I said number of laws and performance in deliberations, whether said legislator has authored laws or not. See, I answered your question.

    And by passing judgement on the Senate as "composed of trapos", aren't you in fact passing judgement on both Noynoy and Mar Roxas as Senators?

    Of course Im passing judgement. That's what we citizens are asked to do especially during elections. What do you think this whole electoral process is all about? It's about passing judgement. Let's not kid ourselves. I do it, you do it. They should be judged. individually. (But personally, I have judged them collectively and will abstain from the senatorial and house elections and let my fellow citizens decide and will acquiesce to their decision. I will vote for president, possibly Aquino, because I dont like the 'smell' of the others.)

    Since this is your blog, you have the honor of having the final say. Thanks for the space, Mr. De Vera.

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  7. I like your comments Jego, and my counter-comments are not meant to put you down. My blog is intended to provoke debate, which I think is happening now.

    You agree that legislative performance must be judged not just by the passage of laws but also by participation in debates and deliberations. I agree.

    But if we use this parameter, I am sorry to say that Noynoy doesnt fare well either. He has not, as Chair of the Committee on Local Governments, made a single public hearing on the Omnibus Amendments to the Local Government Code which has been pending in his committee since he took over as chairman.

    Had he helped push for this measure, then the whole brouhaha on the Supreme Court decision on the conversion of 16 municipalities into cities, their reversion back to municipalities, and then again back to cities, would be corrected.

    He was also very silent and non-participative during the NBN-ZTE scam investigations.

    Your position to not vote for any of the senators is laudable. But then how to we stop Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada from getting re-elected if we all give up on the senatorial elections?

    I will be blogging to endorse my choices for senators. Rest assured that it will not include the "smelly" politicians you detest!!

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  8. hahahaha! i know this administration will go down as the worst!

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  9. Wala siyang naipasang mga batas pero napakagaling niya pagdating sa pagvetoe ng mapapakinabangan sanang mga bills kung naging batas lang. Hay naku! Ni hindi nga jiya makuhang maipasa ang sariling ino-author na bill, ni hindi niya naimpluwensiyahan ang kapwa mambabatas, no wonder na wala din siyang ginawa para sa mga social issues ng bayan sa panahon ng kanyang panunungkulan. Tsk.. Tsk.. Tsk..

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  10. Wala siyang naipasang mga batas pero napakagaling niya pagdating sa pagvetoe ng mapapakinabangan sanang mga bills kung naging batas lang. Hay naku! Ni hindi nga jiya makuhang maipasa ang sariling ino-author na bill, ni hindi niya naimpluwensiyahan ang kapwa mambabatas, no wonder na wala din siyang ginawa para sa mga social issues ng bayan sa panahon ng kanyang panunungkulan. Tsk.. Tsk.. Tsk..

    ReplyDelete