Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile vows to bring back the glorious days of fiery debates in the Philippine Senate as he noted an increasing practice of doing “coffee table” discussions of legislative measures instead of bringing it out for argumentation in the Senate floor.
“Out there in the Senate, where I stayed for 24 years, when I was there, nothing is passed without any debate. Unlike today, they go into a coffee table and they discuss it among themselves and that’s it. That’s not a Senate. That’s not a deliberative assembly of the people’s representatives. A democracy must be open where issues are subject to intellectual dissection,” said Enrile who is running for senator in the 2019 midterm elections.
In fomenting open and public discussion of bills and resolutions filed in the Senate, Enrile said he always wants to make these issues of national interest transparent to the general populace.
“Nothing is hidden to make the people understand because the people are the ones that will suffer if the representatives make mistakes in their understanding and decisions of any matter that affects them. That, in essence, is the history of my involvement in politics today,” Enrile said.
According to the senator who is known for his show-stopping debates with colleagues to include the late Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Raul Roco, the desire to bring back open debates on issues that affect the nation is one of the reasons why he decided to run at the last minute.
“I’m not after power. I’ve had it,” said Enrile who, aside from his stint as Senate president, also served as Minister of National Defense, Secretary of Justice, and customs commissioner in various administrations.
“I had no intention whatsoever to go back to public life, but during the last three years since I left the Senate in 2016, I immersed myself in reading to learn new things and understand what’s going on in our globe.”
“I read a lot of things that I never knew before. I understood the importance of geography to a nation. I studied the problem of scarcities that are coming. I studied the geopolitics that is affecting the planet, the relationships of regional hegemons among themselves and all the present violent events on our earth,” he added
“Apart from this, the government has adopted several political positions and economic positions that interested me - one of which is the proposal to shift the form of government of this country from this present presidential, unitary condition into a more loose and less cohesive structure known as federalism. And so, I focused my world on studying all of these, and I came upon certain issues that I thought I should let the people know.”
Enrile said that’s when he realized he needed the Senate floor as a “forum” to drumbeat all these local and national issues of importance that affect the nation and the world.
“I can talk on a corner but who cares to listen to an old man?” he said.
“So, I said, here is an opportunity for me that is looming in front of my face that I could take in order to bring some of these things to the knowledge of the people,” he said of his 11th hour decision to go for a fifth term in the Senate.