Wednesday’s Senate spectacle and the childish actuations of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his floor adversary were a national embarrassment. It was nauseating to watch them on live television.
Senators Enrile and Alan Peter Cayetano exchanged heated words over the use of Senate funds, with the supposed debate turning ugly and personal. Cayetano accused Enrile of clouding the issue and refusing to answer how Senate funds, especially savings, were used and liquidated. Enrile has come under fire for distributing P1.6 million each to 18 senators in the form of maintenance and other operating expenses in December.
Riled by Cayetano’s privilege speech accusing the elder senator’s female chief of staff of calling the shots in the Senate, Enrile suddenly pulled out a document allegedly showing Cayetano’s late father owed him P37 million for putting up a law office.
Television viewers and radio listeners did enjoy the sight of the two lawmakers airing their dairy laundry in public at the expense of public funds. What is lamentable, however, is the “debate” was nowhere close to aiding legislation. Lost in the ruckus, for one, are the critical bills that aim to alleviate poverty, create jobs and put the economy forward.
Foreign and local businessmen early this week asked Congress to expedite the passage of business and economic reforms that are already in advanced stage of the legislative process. The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines and other business groups cited that a number of these measures were already passed by the House of Representatives, but remained unacted by the Senate.
The bills include amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act; Direct Remittance of Local Government Share in National Wealth Taxes; Enhancing the Curriculum of Basic Education (K+12); and revisions in the Insurance Code.
The business groups noted the growing reform momentum in the Philippines, which has attracted attention in the international press and among foreign governments. They urged Congress to sustain the momentum by passing most of the measures during a three-week session that started on January 21 and before the election campaign period sets in.
Feuding senators should bear in mind that there are equally important tasks that need to be tackled in their august chamber. Bickering and trading insults are not one of them.