MANILA, Philippines – Senator-elect Nancy Binay is taking a page out of the Miriam Defensor Santiago Guide for Rookie Lawmakers: Go back to school.
The neophyte senator started her first day of class at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG), admitting she faces intense scrutiny and great expectations as a first-time politician.
Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter attended an orientation ceremony and began her first session in a 5-day Executive Course on Legislation on Monday, June 17.
Her inspiration? The senator she admitted she is most intimidated with.
“I admit hindi ako familiar with the workings of the Senate. Kung tutuusin mas sanay ako sa executive kasi my father is part of the executive branch. Second, I follow the advice of Sen Miriam Santiago, diba sinabi niya kaming mga neophyte, mag-aral kami sa NCPAG kaya today I am here and I’m ready to learn the ins and outs of the Senate,” Binay said.
(I admit I am not familiar with the workings of the Senate. Come to think of it, I am more used to the executive branch because my father is part of that. I follow Sen Miriam Santiago’s advice because she said neophyte senators should study in NCPAG.)
Binay is taking the course along with her staff, headed by her incoming Chief of Staff former Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug.
The course is a customized program for neophyte lawmakers. Besides Binay, former ABS-CBN reporter and Laguna Congresswoman-elect Sol Aragones also attended the orientation and proceeded to her and her staff’s own session.
UP Vice President for Public Affairs Prospero de Vera III said the program is divided into two parts to address the legislators’ needs.
“The first part of the program is the basics including understanding the administrative system, the legislative process, the budget process, use of PDAF (pork barrel), understanding their roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and the second half focuses on specific issues they want to focus on,” said De Vera, who is also a professor of public administration.
De Vera added that while the course is short, the university is open to further helping legislators if they want to undergo more intensive and specific policy briefings. Other senators like Ralph Recto and Antonio Trillanes IV earned a master’s degree in public administration from the university.
For Binay, the priority remains children’s welfare.
She said that while she is studying how to craft laws, she and her skeletal team of researchers are at the same time preparing to file their first bills on July 1.
These include a bill pushing for daycare centers in offices and rural areas. Her other priorities are increasing the budget for the construction of daycare centers, and setting environmental standards for children.
“I think the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) now has standards on the paint suitable for adults so I think we should also have standards for kids. In school buildings, the construction materials they use for example, the paint should be suitable for children so we will push for those kinds of standards,” she told Rappler.
Binay said she is also considering donating her P8 million savings from campaign contributions to a children’s foundation.
“I am thinking of donating it to the Philippine General Hospital’s Children’s Ward or another option is to return it to the donors but the problem is how to divide the P8 million if you return it so I might just donate the money.”
‘For myself, not critics’
Binay said she decided to take the course not because of criticism during the campaign period about her lack of experience and competence.
Before running for senator, she was a personal assistant to her father and mother, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, for over two decades. She never held any government post.
“During the campaign, I never factored in what my detractors said so this is for me, this is to improve myself. This is not to prove my detractors or anybody else wrong. This is for my self-enhancement.”
Binay said her father is also encouraging her to learn more.
“Exciting kasi diba maganda ang laging merong natututunan? Hindi pa nga ako tapos sa NCPAG nagsa-suggest na ang father ko baka gusto ko pang mag-aral ulit. Sabi niya, I should see where I can learn more kasi maganda ang practice na meron kang academic [learning] tapos at the same time meron ka ring actual experience.”
(It’s exciting to always learn a lot. I am not yet done with NCPAG and he is already suggesting that I study again. He said I should see more where I can learn because it’s good to have both academic learning and actual experience.)
Binay said she is taking it upon herself to get briefings on economic policies next week. She said the UP NCPAG program is not new to her, having taken a short course in finance before.
So what’s new about the experience?
“Sa traffic ako na-culture shock kasi nung nag-aaral ako sa UP, 30 minutes lang coming from Makati. Ngayon, one hour and 30 minutes na!” (It’s with the traffic that I am culture shocked because before it used to be just 30 minutes from Makati, now it’s one hour and 30 minutes.)
Pressure on newbies
While she is not having jitters about her first day of school and work, Binay acknowledged that “the pressure is huge.”
“I have great expectations of myself because the standard I set is so high, it is the standard of our Vice President Binay. I should be worthy of my last name.”
Aragones, Binay’s partymate in the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said she also took the course knowing that all eyes will be on newcomers.
“Somehow, we already have experience in implementing projects as a media practitioner but lawmaking is something I have to study well. I am forming my legislative staff and consulting health experts like Secretary Enrique Ona.”
“Marami akong kinakausap para ang inputs matutunan ko para pag nag-privilege speech ako, may sasabihin akong may laman.” (We are talking to many people so I learn many inputs so when I deliver a privilege speech, I can say something with substance.)
De Vera said Aragones’ program will be district-specific and tackle how she can create a database of civil society groups, implement local projects, use her pork barrel to reach the grassroots, and maintain and expand her political support.
Despite having different constituencies, Binay and Aragones said being on the political spotlight is a new experience they share.
Commenting on the news teams who covered her first day in school, Binay said, “‘Di ko ine-expect na ang magiging attention on my part magiging ganito so kailangan lahat paghandaan ko.”
(I didn’t expect the attention on me would be like this so I am really preparing.) – Rappler.com
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