Wenceslao: The Senate

·3 min read

These are interesting times, not only because we have the namesake and son of a former dictator for an incoming president but also because of the composition of the next Senate. How could a Robin Padilla or a Raffy Tulfo function well as a legislator? Which reminds me of the senators I idolized when I was younger.

I once attended a forum on human rights with Aquilino Pimentel Jr. as speaker. I remember his raspy voice and a speech that showed his sincerity in defending people’s rights, and his intellectual depth. He was among the brave Mindanaoans who stood up during the early years of Martial Law. He later got arrested here and earned his stripes in the Senate, eventually becoming a Senate president. He ran for higher posts but failed. I still have to see the same intellectual depth from his son, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

I remember meeting Pimentel when he worked as a lawyer for the Ayalas during a respite from politics. When I mentioned my name, he told me that he read and liked my columns. That was one of the biggest compliments I got as a writer.

Then there was Jose W. Diokno, who was also a speaker in a students forum I attended. I was already a student leader when I heard his speech and I took time asking for a hard copy of his speech to improve my writing skills. I felt that I should learn from the best.

The most daring was Rene Saguisag, whose defense of those illegally incarcerated by the Marcos regime was topnotch. Stories have it that there were instances when the judge would fine him for his arguments in court. He would pay the fine and resume his fiery arguments. Diokno and Saguisag were among the best human rights lawyers during Martial Law.

Then there were Jovito Salonga and Lorenzo Tañada. I consider the former the better speaker, but both did well in leading the fight against the Marcos dictatorship. Salonga also steered the Senate when it put an end to the continued stay of US military bases in the country. Salonga was one of those injured in the bombing of a political rally at Plaza Miranda that also injured our own Sergio Osmeña Jr. Osmeña and another Cebuano (by way of Bohol), Ernesto Herrera, distinguished themselves in the Senate.

Then there were the women senators years before Risa Hontiveros and Loren Legarda made it, led by the fiery Miriam Defensor-Santiago. There were Santanina Rasul, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Tessie Aquino-Oreta and Nikki Coseteng. I mentioned only a few distinguished senators here but there were many more during the early years of the republic.

That is why I am saddened by the recent turn of events. Of course we had former movie actors who became senators before, but they were few and far between. I idolized senators in the past mainly because of their intellect and academic achievements. Now people vote for senators mainly because they are popular for reasons not related to lawmaking.

Sad.

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