On the Philippine Senate investigations

A taste test of the cakes should’ve been conducted by the Philippine Senate.  The politician’s palate being a most reliable gauge would’ve instantly concluded the debate over overpricing.  And perhaps washing down the cake with a cup of chamomile tea would’ve chased away the warring mood that seems to possess Congress these days.

As to the verification of Makati City Hall 2, allegedly overpriced at PHP2.2B, as a world-class building, there’s the set of relevant ISO Standards for that:  ICS 91 which pertains to ‘construction materials and building’. The Philippines is an ISO member body, or one of the only members of ISO that have voting rights.  Does the said building meet pertinent ISO Standards? The formal audit report should elaborate on that and conclude whether or not it’s overpriced. (Pending that, the concerned citizen can put the photos of Makati City Hall 2 and the SM Megamall carpark, both 12 stories, side by side, a non-technical means to discern what ‘world class’ is.)

The circuitous and drawn out debates in the Senate over very simple matters – this time, cakes and buildings – which are otherwise easily solved by technical means translate to lost opportunities (in the form of timely decisions over more urgent matters) and a waste of public resources. Moreover, handling of these has taken the way of gossip-mongering. Without a formal audit report to frame the investigation (which makes one think about how the formal complaint was even accepted by the court), these randomly-produced “allegations” is reminiscent of the times we often speak against: the Martial Law years, when anybody can be accosted, even right in their own homes, and charged according to the whims of who-knows-who.

The complainant shoulders the burden of proof. The court cannot entertain an accusation that’s based merely on allegation. Yet, in the case of Mayor Binay who’s the accused he’s the one told to submit evidence (against himself!).  And did the mediator in the investigation even step in to bring order?

Going further, what’s most peculiar is that the Senate, except in the case of Chief Justice Corona, does not follow through investigations it has opened.  For instance, what is it’s decision on the public officials in the pork barrel scam formally charged by the Ombudsman?  It hasn’t until now made a clarification to the Filipino public as to whether or not these are suspended from office given that the charge is plunder. The Senate cannot leave it’s cases unfinished.

The Senate, most of all, is the place where individual rights and democratic and republican values uphold by the Philippine Constitution are made tangible.  If it’s as chaotic as the public market, what hope is there for Filipinos and the country?

The time spent on these unnecessary drawn out discussions should’ve been spent on contentious national issues long neglected:  the role of Filipino youth in nation building (now that the Sangguniang Kabataan is in limbo and many young people are idle – either unemployed or underemployed), quality in basic education, public health and systems, social security, public utilities and monopolistic and oligarchic setups in the sector, the role of agriculture in economic development, land use, land tenure, public transportation (what to do with PNR, after recent renewal of it’s license), tax reform, competitiveness of Philippine cities, crime in Philippine cities, regional growth and development, regional peace, urbanization, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and appropriations of adequate budgets for all of these, etc.

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(This brings to mind the Filipino concept of ‘time’.  For the Filipino, traditionally, ‘time’ is as long as ‘forever’.  It’s not bounded in the same way as Westerners do it i.e. by the hour, week, month, quarter.  ‘Clock work’.in the Western world is not interpreted in the same way here.  Instead, time is measured in seasons, as in, the planting season, a season to be happy, to mourn, to be silent, to be at the bottom of things i.e. poor, to be at the top i.e. rich, to do, to not do, etc. Pana-panahon, in local terminology. This partly explains why activities as for example public discussions can take forever or not at all, as it may not be the “season” to discuss a particular subject.  For me, this is a gauge of the extent of influence Western-educated Filipinos have on localities hence native culture.  It’s minimal.  Filipinos’ traditional concept of time largely remains.  But, to be competitive, to be world-class, Filipinos must make the necessary adjustments toward global standards of time.)

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