FULL TEXT: Senators obeyed ‘their conscience,’ not somebody’s command

Rappler.com
Reelected Senator Grace Poe pays tribute to graduating colleagues who, she believes, will in time ‘reclaim their place again in this chamber’

LAST DAY. Eighteen of the senators of the 17th Congress attend the last session day on June 4, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing senators – those whose two 6-year terms are over and those who lost their reelection bids – were supposed to deliver their “graduation” speeches on Tuesday, June 4, the last session day of the 17th Congress. 

However, a reelected colleague, Senator Grace Poe, also took the floor to pay them a tribute, putting in focus their independence and the laws that they pushed for, whose long-term impact…will be constantly felt by the people.

Maintaining the Senate’s independence has been Poe’s battlecry since the campaign, when it became clear that allies of President Rodrigo Duterte were set to clinch seats, threatening the chances of reelectionists. Poe also initiated a few campaign sorties with fellow reelectionists. 

There have been talks of neophytes – Duterte’s allies – breaking tradition and demanding committee chairmanships and threatening to vote out Senate President Vicente Sotto III. This prompted 14 senators to sign a resolution expressing their confidence in Sotto’s leadership

Below is the full text of Poe’s speech. 

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Mr. President, when the roll of the 17th Congress will be called for the last time, the names of 6 of our friends and colleagues will be mentioned with distinction. They are Aquino, Ejercito, Trillanes, Legarda, Escudero, and Honasan. They will be graduating with honors.

They may not be physically here in the next Congress, but each of them will leave behind a body of work so expansive in scope, so enriching in purpose, and so progressive in nature that their presence will be felt until the time that they will reclaim their place again in this chamber.

For theirs, I believe, is a short sabbatical from this institution, but not from serving the people.

Senator Loren is leaving the Better House for the Bigger House. Senator Chiz will have his hands full balancing the competing demands of being a part-time governor and a full-time husband. Senator Greg will be joining the Cabinet, and he jokingly says that he is not the first soldier who will rush toward danger.

And, of course, senators Sonny, Bam, and JV will continue with their advocacies. Because holding a public office has never been a prerequisite in pursuing a calling. And when they do, as citizens, then they will be holding an office higher than the Office of the President, and that is the office of a patriot.

But as they take their leave, let it be said that the good of the laws they have written; the enlightenment their pronouncements have caused; and the light their investigations shone on the dark moments of our history will stand both the test of time and the judgment of history for the courage and the competence that they pursued.

And when future Filipinos look back at their time in the Senate, they need not plumb the musty records of our archives because the impact of the laws they have written will be constantly felt by the people long after our time in this world has passed. 

Presidents will come and go and political winds will change, but Senator Bam’s Free College Act will continue to realize the dreams of Filipinos to be taught of skills that will empower them to win the future. I, for one, will forever be grateful for the privilege of being able to still serve in the Senate, because without your vote, without you crossing party lines for your principles, I would have not been a senator anymore. Thank you, I know you suffered greatly for it, for being ostracized by some members of your party, but I salute you, Senator Bam. Thank you for saving the countless foundlings in this country. You will be back, we will be praying for you.

And when you get sick, you will be thankful for the comprehensive reseta Senator JV has written for their fast and free treatment, the Universal Health Care Law. Clearly, the good one is behind great laws. I’ve never seen somebody as hardworking also, and who is always present, who is willing to take on being with you in a committee hearing for the quorum. Countless public services hearings for the transportation sector. A truly knowledgeable colleague who knows the  airport, the trains, and all the different mass transportation in this country. I thank you for being a competent and very dedicated vice chair of the public services committee in spite of your other responsibilities, thank you. And you’re very lucky to have also a mother so dignified, so beautiful, and so supportive, to be here with us. Mayor Guia, idol kayo ng maraming mga kababaihan. Majority leader, yes, like my mother, definitely.

Senator Loren’s prodigious output is as textured as the native clothes she elegantly wears and carries. Her beauty will not be surpassed. She has woven a large tapestry of laws as diverse as battling climate change to balancing the budget. And for many of us, I think, she will always be remembered as a very capable and compassionate finance chairman. Because of her, the many social protection initiatives of this administration was funded. The increase in pay of soldiers and government employees; in my case, the funding of the free lunch program in public elementary schools; and, of course, the numerous health initiatives for the universal healthcare. Without Senator Loren’s mind also, and her intelligence, competence, and dedication, we wouldn’t have been able to pass this budget and fund those laws that we passed.

Senator Greg’s working style violates every rule in a politician’s playbook. As a quiet politician, he is a walking contradiction. He is the last politico to shun social media. He proudly wields an analog phone yet he is indeed, as someone has pointed out, the silent workhorse in a stable of prancing show horses. His first-rate mind is imprinted in the laws that he wrote and also sponsored.

Which makes me go to the next. Some may not agree with his approach, but Senator Trillanes, for me, is courageous. He does not mind the perks of being a senator. He’s unafraid to speak out even if it is an unpopular issue. And we need dissenting minds. We may not always agree with those who object, but without them, we will not be challenged to think beyond our comfort zone and realize what really is essential. And so I thank him, for being the voice of sometimes many of us, who only squeak.

But it’s not just about investigating for Senator Sonny Trillanes, he also passed landmark resolutions and bills, together with Senator Greg, who was the sponsor of the Joint Resolution No. 1, for military and uniformed personnel increase in pay. Ang mga sundalo natin tumaas ang suweldo dahil kay Senator Trillanes at kay Senator Honasan. May utang na loob sila sa kanilang pinanggalingan at hindi nila kinalimutan ang kanilang mga kapatid. Kaya ang sabi ng aking seatmate, maraming nare-recruit si Senator Sonny Trillanes. Hindi ko alam kung ano’ng pakahulugan no’n, pero walang masama doon, tumutulong lang siya. At ang isa pa, napataas din niya ang suweldo ng mga government employees kaya hindi lang po puro pakikibaka o pakikipaglaban; hindi lang nako-cover ng media lahat ng mga ibang trabaho na ginagawa niya na tahimik lamang.

When I was newbie candidate and senator, Senator Chiz showed me the ropes in campaign policy work and, today, [he] remains a call-a-friend kind of a consultant. I have learned many things from him, mostly good, but some I’d rather not say. He sponsors laws in assembly-like fashion, but not for once did he sacrifice scrutiny for speed. Senator Chiz can find the most obscure things in the law, even the nuances. He has a brilliant mind, but I will always remember him as the spokesperson of my father, who stayed with us during the dark times and never left. The statutes of our Republic are full of Escudero laws and amendments. As he likes to say, “Dapat lahat, may Heart.”

Pero siguro sa lahat ng nabanggit ko, lahat halos ay mayroong relasyon sa akin pagdating sa aking ama. Si Vice President na kandidato ng aking ama ay si Senator Loren. Ang mahal na inaanak ng aking nanay, si Senator JV, talagang tumulong sa kampanya ng aking tatay. Si Senator Greg, isa pong kasama noon ni FPJ, ewan ko kung gusto mo pang maalala ’yon, pero ’yan ay totoo, tumulong rin. At siyempre, si Senator Chiz, kaya pagpunta ko po sa Senado, lalung-lalo na, nandiyan si Senator Sotto, na naging campaign manager ng aking ama. Si Senator Nancy, kahit nag-iba kami ng landas, ang kanyang ama ay nakasama rin ng aking tatay. At ’yung tatay niya, naging adviser rin ng tatay ko. Hindi na po iba ang mga naging kasamahan ko dito kaya medyo naibsan ang aking kaba.

For all of them, what is more admirable than their industry is the independence they have shown in performing their duties.

Yes, they may have been affiliated with a party or allied with a president, past or present, but every time they showed up for work here they did not deposit their principles at the door. By and large, they have let the interest of their constituents and the spirit of the Constitution – and nothing or nobody else – guide their decisions.

Every vote they have taken was in obedience to what their conscience tells them and not to the command of someone else. By doing so, they have lived up to and sustained the Senate’s cherished role as a bulwark of independence, where every proposal that comes before it is freely, and, if need be, fiercely debated.

Maraming salamat po, mga kasama, sa inyong pagmamahal dito sa Senado. – Rappler.com