As I See It

Angara, Escudero, Casiño for the Senate

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If you ask senatorial candidates if they are for or against political dynasties, many of them, including those who are actual members of dynasties, will say they will vote for bills abolishing dynasties, no doubt knowing the strong opposition of the general populace to them. Dynasty members will add, however, “but first we must define what is a political dynasty.”

Such was the answer of Rep. Sonny Angara to the question at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. “Should it be parents, children and siblings only?” he asked. “I think including uncles and aunts and cousins is too much already.” One of the candidates in the Team PNoy senatorial ticket, Angara is the son of Sen. Edgardo Angara whose sixth term in the Senate will end in June. His aunt, the sister of Senator Angara, is running for the position that Sonny will vacate in the House of Representatives. He said, though, that if a bill banning political dynasties comes to a vote in the Senate, he would vote for its approval—if he becomes a senator.

Angara and the two other guests at the Kapihan—Rep. Teddy Casiño who is now running for a Senate seat and former Rep. Annie Rosa Susano who wants to go back to the House to represent Novaliches—said they would also vote for the abolition of the pork barrel but admitted that they collected their pork barrel allocations “because it was already there.”  In fact, added Casiño, he had authored a bill in the House that would abolish the pork barrel system but it got nowhere because most of the congressmen are fattening themselves on it.

Would they miss the pork if it is abolished?

Answer: No! Somebody remarked that a few senators, like Panfilo Lacson, do not collect their pork barrel allocations but it has not affected their work or efficiency. In fact, Lacson is better than most senators who collect their pork.

Speaking of pork, Susano said that each Quezon City councilor has a pork barrel allocation of P48 million a year. Each of them also has a payroll for 100 or more employees, many of whom may be ghost employees. Two of the QC councilors have been charged for the offense by former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel and are now undergoing trial.  There are others, not just the two of them, Susano said.

So what are you going to do about it, she was asked.

Surely, the others must be subjected to the same process, she answered. Even QC barangay captains get pork, she added. Yet we do not see any improvement in the decaying parts of the city. Where is all that money going? Is it being audited by the Commission on Audit?

As an aside, I daresay that too much money may be fueling graft in QC. The city has the highest real estate tax rate in the country. And the city treasurer and city administrator are quick to auction off property assets belonging to people who may be behind in their realty tax payments, and the same are usually bought at bargain prices by a syndicate close to City Hall.

QC has billions of pesos deposited in the banks—Susano said P13 billion—but little of that goes to the service of the people. QC can afford to build medium-rise housing for the squatters but does not do that. It can afford to free lots squatted upon so that the law-abiding taxpaying owners can use them, but the city government does not do that either. In fact, it is collecting additional real estate taxes, allegedly to be used for constructing homes for the homeless, but no such homes are being constructed. Where is the money going?

The billions of taxpayers’ money in the banks give city officials with itchy fingers ideas on how to get hold of some of them, such as the pork barrel and ghost employees. Will the Commission on Audit and the Department of the Interior and Local Government please look into the abuses of QC officials?

Back to the Kapihan and the candidates. Last Monday was the first time I interviewed Angara at the Kapihan and I was glad to know that among his advocacies are education, healthcare, job creation and helping the youth find employment, developing agriculture and tourism, transparency and accountability in governance, and promoting women empowerment and family relations.

I also learned that he has excellent academic credentials: He is a law graduate of the University of the Philippines, of the Harvard Law School, and of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In Congress, he has authored more than 50 laws, and has filed over 200 bills still pending in Congress. He would be a good addition to the Senate.

The same goes for Teddy Casiño. He is not a trapo, has no dynasty, is sincere in his advocacies for the masses, and is against the pork barrel, constitutional change and political dynasties.

Also against political dynasties is Ricardo Penson, independent candidate for senator. In fact, he is the “original antidynasty man” and is a patriot.

And let us not forget Sen. Chiz Escudero who is seeking reelection in the Team PNoy ticket. Chiz has been consistently number 2 (next to Loren Legarda) in the poll ratings, but his affairs of the “Heart” (surnamed Evangelista) may have affected his standing lately. But so what?  All the world loves a lover, ’di ba?

Joking aside, Chiz had a good record in the Senate and deserves to return there. This talented young man can conquer many more mountains.

Before I run out of space, I would like to make a pitch for Mitos Magsaysay. The Senate needs an oppositionist like her. If only Team PNoy senators are there, the Senate would be a rubber stamp. Besides Mitos is against the pork barrel, political dynasties and Cha-cha.

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