The bigger news yesterday was Sen. Ping Lacson resigning as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Per the resignation letter he sent to Senate President Tito Sotto, he resigned because he wanted to have more time to scrutinize the proposed 2022 National Budget. Lacson has become the scourge of pork-loving legislators ever since he was elected Senator. Lacson needs more time to give the 2022 budget laser-like focus since it’s an election year budget and he’s running for President. The other news of the day was the Opposition rebranding itself as the “Working Opposition”. I’ve lost count of how many times they have undergone this exercise in the last five years. There has also been increased political noise for groups who “want” Leni Robredo to run for President.
The Commission on Audit (COA) flagging brouhaha hasn’t died down yet. Sen. Richard Gordon has issued a subpoena to former Department of Budget Management (DBM) Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which is looking into the alleged overpriced purchase of face masks and face shields are the start of the pandemic. Lao is a protégé of Sen. Bong Go. It’s safe to say that Gordon is going on a fishing expedition because it’s the season, and I don’t mean the holiday season. It’s political theater again at the Senate. Barring any last-minute change, the Lacson-Sotto tandem’s formal launch is on September 8. Lacson has indicated his displeasure over the President’s defense of embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque and his offensive against the COA. This began the flagging versus flogging contest we have been witnessing the past week.
If the Liberal Party and its allies are now the “Working Opposition” what of the Lacson-Sotto tandem? We Need A Leader, as Tito Sotto has said. It is evident that Lacson is not going on a fishing expedition like Gordon. The national budget has been submitted by the DBM and Lacson is going to give it the fine-toothed-comb treatment he usually does but more so now that the COA has laid the predicate for possible anomalous transactions and unobligated funds which shouldn’t be the case with the lead department tasked with pandemic response. It is one thing to make public accusations bereft of proof of malfeasance. Credibility is established when there is evidence to back up one’s allegations. This is where the “Working Opposition” is weak because they generally practice the maxim of “it doesn’t necessarily have to be true. It just needs to look like it.”
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Whatever faults Lacson has based on public perception, he can’t be as accused of using his position as a bully pulpit the way other Senators have done so in the past. Perhaps the better label for Lacson and Sotto is the Responsible Opposition which does not start shooting until there is definitive proof that graft and corruption occurred. Democracy is about checks and balances ideally. But the larger goal is nation-building. Leni Robredo’s “Working Opposition” has done nothing to contribute to nation-building as they had been bent on destruction and destabilization since their fall from power in 2016. We can’t expect the same level of scrutiny if ever Isko Moreno makes it to the Presidency. Aksyon Demokratiko is like the illegitimate child of the Liberal Party.
This is why it is a shame that Lacson has to choose between the Presidency or the Senate. The same is true with Sotto who is termed out. If the tandem does not make it in 2022, they will have to wait another three years before they can run for office again by which time they will be 75 years old. We are running out of competent leaders because the present political structure is defective. The platform of the Lacson-Sotto tandem hasn’t been made official but hopefully it includes charter change. A unicameral parliamentary form of government is more advantageous in terms of cost, efficiency and productivity. The Prime Minister as head of government and head of state offers consistency and continuity. If one loses his bid to become Prime Minister, he is still a member of parliament and can continue in a fiscalizer role as part of the opposition.
The composition of the Senate in 2022 is worrisome because the most senior members would be Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid. Both are outstanding in their silence during their terms. Both are not as assiduous as Lacson when it comes to job performance. These are not ordinary times we live in as we face the lingering threat of the pandemic like a Sword of Damocles hanging over our collective heads. What we need is less of the irresponsible “Working Opposition” and more of the Responsible Opposition as best exemplified by Lacson and Sotto who are neither pro-Administration nor pro-Opposition but simply pro-Philippines.
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