Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Senate has lost right to exist..

MANILA, AUGUST 14, 2006 (STAR) The Senate has lost the moral right to claim that it has been working for the people after ignoring hundreds of legislation and the nationwide clamor by millions of Filipinos to amend the Constitution, two House leaders say.

Deputy Majority Leader Rodolfo Antonino of Nueva Ecija and Rep. Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City blasted opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. for "grossly diverting" attention from the real issue of the Senate’s "monumental failure" to focus on its primary constitutional duty of legislation.

Antonino and Puentevella were reacting to the Senate’s regular conduct of inquiries on alleged government anomalies, the latest of which is the reported misuse of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) fund meant for Filipinos working overseas.

The Senate and MalacaƱang, however, are at odds anew over the refusal of the administration to allow Cabinet members and other officials to attend the Senate inquiry.

Pimentel on Saturday urged his colleagues to arrest and hold in contempt government officials who continue to snub Senate inquiries in aid of legislation.

"Pimentel is in a period of denial — like most people when afflicted with a terminal disease. The truth is, the Senate has not been able to carry out its constitutionally mandated function as a legislative body and all its other actions are geared toward self-promotion," Antonino said.

Puentevella had this to say: "The Senate is a terminal case –no amount of denial can save it from abolition."

He added that the Senate "is in the intensive-care unit and most Filipinos believe that it has lost its reason to exist because it has failed to respond to peoples’ needs."

The administration and proponents of Charter change are pushing for the shift in the country’s form of government from presidential to parliamentary system, which would effectively abolish the Senate in the process.

More than 820 local and national legislative measures, which the House of Representatives already passed on third reading during the last two regular sessions of the 13th Congress, are still awaiting Senate action.

House leaders and members said the Senate in the 12th Congress had the same track record.

According to Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. in his statement opening the third regular session last month, the measures are of utmost importance to the nation and to millions of our local constituencies who want schools, roads, anti-poverty programs that have already been earmarked especially for depressed areas.

The Senate has also been accused of dragging its feet on Charter reforms proposed by the House, forcing the pro-Charter change Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) to seek a coalition with the multi-sectoral group Sigaw ng Bayan to campaign for a shift this year from the present bicameral-presidential system to a unicameral-parliamentary government through a people’s initiative to amend the Charter.

A newspaper advertisement by Cha-cha advocates has quoted opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara’s statement that the Senate may have "started to lose its purpose" by focusing more on investigation and less on lawmaking, which is its primary task.

Lawyer Raul Lambino, spokesman for the pro-Cha-cha coalition Sigaw ng Bayan, said the Senate has passed less than a dozen laws but conducted more than 250 congressional inquiries, none of which, he pointed out, has resulted in any remedial legislation. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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