My dream SenateBy Rafael Castillo M.D.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In two days, we will be electing, among others, people who will be among the honorable members of the Senate. They are tasked with an all-important role of deliberating proposed statutes and passing them in the form of laws.
Since their main role is in the drafting of relevant and implementable laws for the betterment of the majority—a function that requires thorough research, study, analysis, consensus building and effective communication—an above average intelligence honed by a considerable experience is an ideal basic requirement for all those who aspire to become senators of any country’s legislature.
A good senator must also be able to see what’s behind the walls—a visionary and strategic thinker, being able to have a fairly good idea of what the country needs to achieve whatever vision the leaders of the nation have set. He/she is therefore more proactive, rather than just reactive in his/her thinking, and he/she must not focus only on stop-gap statutes for the country.
A good politician
In one of his speeches, Sir Winston Churchill, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, defined a good politician as someone who “needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year and have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
A good senator must also have clarity of thought and able to communicate his/her ideas well to all his/her audiences—either among his/her colleagues in the august halls of the Senate or in a town gathering in a far-flung barangay. I am always impressed by senators or congressmen who can communicate well in Tagalog. I cannot understand legislators who cannot actively participate in debates and deliberations just because they’re not fluent in English. What matters most in deliberations are the ideas and arguments one has. If there’s a vacuum of these, then no amount of fluency in any language can make one an active participant in the proceedings of the Senate.
Legislators must also learn to focus on what they feel are the priority bills they must really develop and pursue until they become laws of the land. Bills are meaningless unless they become laws. Filing bills left and right doesn’t make any sense because the legislator’s focus, energy and resources are dissipated. A laser-like focus is needed because law-making requires a lot of work, research analysis and consultations to piece together a good bill that can meet the approval of one’s colleagues.
Needless to say, a track record of unblemished integrity in public service is a must for any aspiring senator. The Senate is a temple of temptations of all sorts, and if one does not have a strong moral fiber, one is likely to succumb to these temptations. At age 35, which is the minimum age for all senatorial candidates, one’s moral foundation is already set. It’s either one has it, or does not have it.
It may be sound like a vested interest, but I’ve been wishing for our aspiring senators to put greater emphasis on their health agenda and not only make it appear as an addendum to their political platform, which is usually dominated by pledges on education, livelihood and fight against corruption.
Health is supposed to be one of the fundamental human rights the State must guard and protect. The constitution of the World Health Organization states in its preamble that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
The right to health
The WHO also emphasizes that to ensure this right to health, the governments must generate conditions in which everyone can be as healthy as possible. This includes ensuring availability of health services, healthy and safe working conditions, adequate housing and nutritious food. Legislation is needed for most of these.
There are still tall mountains to climb to achieve universal healthcare in our country, and all elected senators must do their share in filling up the gaps and building strategic pathways by way of needed laws to make sure that every Filipino, even those living in the remotest areas of the country, has access to adequate healthcare.
A number of our readers have asked me who I’m going to vote for in the coming elections. After having described my criteria for an ideal senator, and after much thought and study on the subject, I am voting for the following: Sonny Angara, Risa Hontiveros, Bam Aquino, Jun Magsaysay, Ed Hagedorn, Dick Penson, Koko Pimentel, Loren Legarda, Alan Cayetano, Richard Gordon, Chiz Escudero and Eddie Vilanueva.
They compose my dream Senate. And who knows, Monday might just be another lucky day for me, and for the whole country as well.
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