Separate, independent Senate

July 4, 2010

Journal Online  
July 4, 2010

The Senate, being half of the Congress, may be a co-equal branch of the Executive  department.

But it is also separate or independent of the Executive branch.

But more than that, both departments have the same constituency –- the people – through direct elections.

This makes the Senate superior in a way to the House of Representatives whose members are also directly elected but only by districts.

Therefore, it is important for the Senate to keep a healthy distance from Malacañang to keep our democratic institutions vibrant. In short, we need a Senate leader who is not chummy with the President.             

Considering their vast mandate, we can only understand why senators jealously, fiercely guard their independence.

In this light, it is not hard to understand why a bloc of senators headed by veteran Sen.

Edgardo Angara Saturday played hard ball a day after Sen. Francis Pangilinan, party mate of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, formally launched his bid for the Senate presidency.

Instead of supporting Pangilinan, Angara declared in a statement that his group, which named itself “Magnificent 5,” would “support a Senate President who can uphold the independence of the institution and who will pursue an agenda of reform and change.”

Take it from a guy who once headed the Senate which played a critical  collaboration with President Ramos in 1995. Ramos’ Lakas and Angara’s Laban ng  Demokratikong Pilipino coalesced for the mid-term elections for the Senate that year.  

On the other hand, Pangilinan served as campaign manager for the Liberal Party senatorial slate (in the May general elections) whose standard bearer is now  President Aquino.

A senator, who asked not to be named by a major broadsheet so as not to preempt the vote of senators, said Pangilinan would have to rise above the perception that he was too close to Aquino.

“Kiko (Pangilinan) himself said he had asked the permission of President Noynoy to run for SP (Senate president),” the senator was quoted by the broadsheet as saying, adding that Pangilinan should assure his colleagues that he would not be beholden to the President. “If you have a House of Representatives and Senate controlled by the President, where is independence?”

Angara said, in a statement Friday, that the nation needed an “independent  reformist” upper chamber, stressing the importance of installing, at the helm of the Senate, a senator with an independent mind.

“History has shown that the Senate is the only institution that can stand up to the other institutions of government, especially as its members are elected nationally like the Presid
ent and the Vice President. Hence, the Senate must be protected as an independent reformist institution because the Senate is elected at large,” he pointed out.

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