How Congress can work better
"Workshops would be a good idea."We live in troubled times, President Rodrigo Dutgerte said in his SONA opening statement. Among the most troubled were the people who helped draft the President’s speech. They had difficulty putting together in a logical, coherent, and forthright manner the many complex problems confronting the nation and troubling the President. The President is proposing the creation of new departments, one of which is to address exclusively the concerns of the millions of Filipinos working overseas. He also issued executive orders directing some of his cabinet members to draw programs which will put our country on stream with worldwide developments in science and technology and in diplomacy. The President has asked Congress to enact measures which will cover the urgent problems he outlined in his speech and to pass long pending legislative bills which are now badly needed. Admitting that graft and corruption, the drug menace, and social inequities remain entrenched, he called on Congress and the people to join him in confronting these problems in the last two years of his term. He stressed that the pandemic has deepened the gravity of these problems and stunted efforts to shore up the battered economic situation. With most of the members of Congress quarantined and more occupied with preserving their political footholds, the chances of the urgent legislative measures getting passed is negligible. But there are ways by which Congress can work better and help the President. Instead of conducting hearings and investigations, Congress should hold workshops and consultations. It should invite the best and the brightest people from the private sector and key officials from government agencies to thoroughly discuss the problems or issues in any specific subject of legislation. In effect, Congress is calling on the people to draft the laws which will address their concerns or govern the industry to which they belong. This means the legislative measures they recommend are not only products of wide consensus but are the true sentiments of the people directly involved. The workshops will minimize, if not prevent, lobbying by vested interests who are powerful and influential because of their financial and political clout. This will also lessen the need for congressional hearings and investigations which are held mostly in aid of publicity instead of legislation. Congressional hearings are often prolonged and are usually disjointed, since the issues are not always clearly defined or joined. These workshops will be highly welcomed by the business community, particularly by the various business organizations. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the local associations of foreign business enterprises in the country often find it difficult to register their views and participate in debates over legislative proposals affecting their interests. The workshop is not a novel idea. It was initiated in the last Congress before martial law.
Mr. Ernesto G. Banawis was formerly legislative consultant of Speaker Cornelio Villareal and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.