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Challenge for the ‘supermajority’

The effect of these unusually quick alignments for leadership in the Senate and the House, normally bitterly contested, is the certainty of incoming President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. having a “supermajority” in Congress.

Statesman News Service |

The effect of these unusually quick alignments for leadership in the Senate and the House, normally bitterly contested, is the certainty of incoming President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. having a “supermajority” in Congress. It is a given, with the massive 31 million votes Filipinos gave Marcos Jr. at the polls. It’s a no-brainer that most of the 300-plus House members will join the coalition of the victor, the better to partake of the pork and perks accessible to members of the majority. And with no less than a cousin of the incoming president as the new speaker, the House is certain to be squarely behind the chief executive’s legislative agenda and executive decisions. This augurs well for the new president’s priorities, chiefly the passage of the national budget and tax measures needed to meet the daunting economic challenges, including the gargantuan debts, left by the Duterte administration. 

By tradition, the Senate is less of a rubber stamp than the House. Or so it was when the chamber was composed of intellectual giants and legal luminaries known for being independent-minded. In recent times, however, celebrities or those allied with the powers have been propelled to the Senate, never mind if they were strangers to the intricacies of legislation and do not have the mental prowess needed for rigorous debates. Who can argue with the more than 26 million Filipinos who voted an action star as their number one senator last May 9? The fact that only one opposition candidate ~ Sen. Risa Hontiveros ~ made it to the winning circle of 12 new senators also speaks to the voters’ desire to have a Senate friendly to the president. 

The possibility of having a super-majority Senate (with only two senators comprising the minority so far) is such a palpable scenario that Senate President Vicente Sotto III turned emotional at the Senate’s last session when “graduating’’ senators like him delivered their valedictory speeches last week. “Maintain the integrity and independence of the Senate,” he urged his former colleagues and the new lawmakers. Coming from one who had been criticized for his staunch support of Mr Duterte’s controversial policies when he led the chamber, the appeal may not have the desired weight to make a dent. 

But apparently said with the benefit of hindsight, Sotto’s advice certainly merits consideration by the incoming Senate. Because of its vaunted tradition and institutional integrity, the Senate is in a better position to fulfil the constitutional mandate of pro- viding the needed checks and balances to the other branches of government, particularly Malacañang. With oversight powers and the authority to conduct investigations and inquiries in aid of legislation, the Senate must continue to scrutinize the executive’s policies and vast powers when these are inimical to the public interest. 

That is not to say that the Senate, or the House, should be obstruction- ist. It is the task of the two houses to come up with laws responsive to our times and to support the government is doing its job. The Constitution gives the House the “power of the purse’’ to ensure that taxpayer money is properly allocated and spent where they are intended. Similarly, the Senate has the duty to closely examine policies to promote accountability and prevent corruption and abuse of power. The anomalous Pharmally pandemic deal is a case in point. 

A majority of senators, allied with Mr Duterte and Marcos Jr., refused to sign the blue ribbon committee report because they objected to Mr Duterte’s inclusion among the personalities recommended to be charged for the alleged overpricing and anomalies in the purchase of at least P11 billion in pandemic supplies.