“As lawmakers, our job is to listen to our constituents. If our phones are ringing off the hook with people demanding to know where we stand on an issue, we pay attention.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NO historian will write about an Ilonggo lawmaker who is “NPA” or “non-performing asset” in both the Lower and Upper chambers of Philippine Congress.
No chronicler of the past will claim that legislators from the south are “no talk and, therefore, no utok (to borrow the late Senator Roding Ganzon’s bombshells).”
Almost all senators and representatives with Ilonggo blood running in their veins have given the country tremendous glory and prestige since the pre-war era, and the list of these outstanding lawmakers from the Western Visayas is expanding every election year.
When they are in the rostrum, Ilonggo lawmakers will make sure the words that come out from their mouths aren’t non-sense or will become the sources of humiliation for their heritage and culture.
This could only mean one thing: we have quality leaders and quality voters to boot.
One of the remaining few titanic voices in the Senate today is Senator Franklin Drilon from Molo, Iloilo City.
The former Senate President made many Ilonggos proud of him when he recently schooled on the basics of parliamentary interpellation neophyte but aggressive Senator Francis Tolentino of Cavite, who probably wanted to impress the nation when he introduced some “novel legal theories” in his recent inaugural privilege speech.
Tolentino, a lawyer like Drilon, must’ve underestimated his colleagues’ capacity to think when he asserted that President Rodrigo Duterte’s oral agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, allowing China to fish in Philippine waters, was valid and legally binding.
“There is no restriction on either the form or substance of international agreements,” Tolentino.
Drilon thundered: “Many of these I have heard for the first time. These theories, however, in our view, are not settled.”
The Ilonggo Senate Minority Leader, who believes that the best avenue to test the validity of such “novel theories” is through a committee hearing and not on the floor, added: “I am prepared to debate on the propositions here and now, but we do not claim to have a monopoly of legal knowledge. That’s why we qualify and deny the attribution that we are a legal luminary.”
We saw how greenhorn Tolentino capitulated after Drilon’s barrage of snipes when Tolentino asserted: “There is no restriction on either the form or substance of international agreements.”
Drilon parried Tolentino’s theory: “Following this proposition, can the President of the Republic enter into an oral or even a written agreement ceding the island of Panay, even if it is contrary to Article I of our Constitution on national territory?”
Drilon pumped more bullets: “If there is no restriction as to form, can multilateral agreements be in the form of an oral agreement? I cannot imagine the difficulty of enforcing a verbal multilateral agreement. Can we enter into an agreement that is in conflict with the Constitution, despite the latter being an internal law of fundamental importance if we say there’s no restriction as to the substance of the verbal agreement?”
Drilon showed all and sundry you don’t parade a shallow intellectual stunt in the presence of sharp-witted and sagacious legislators especially if you are beginning to make a name for yourself before a “live” session aired worldwide.
It was fine if Tolentino’s interpellators were, with due respect, the honorable Senators Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Bong Revilla, Bong Go, and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
Not Drilon. Not Sen. Ralph Recto and other remaining sensible senators today.
And certainly not another Ilonggo intellectual behemoth, the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
We missed the best woman President the Philippines never had, especially when she unmasked the charlatans, head-butt the idiots, and clobbered the ninny lobcocks in a tension-filled privilege speech and nerve-biting but hilarious Senate committee hearings.
Tolentino and the pack of intellectual peacocks and rattlesnakes now occupying the Senate are lucky Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a true-blue Ilongga darling of the masa and a fire-spewing legal and constitutional authority, was no longer around.
Erap once quipped: “Pupulutin kayo sa kangkongan.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)