The newly elected president of the Senate has been accused of plagiarism, of disrespecting women, of cluelessness about the most pressing issues of public concern, and of ignorance of the Constitution.
During the debate on the Reproductive Health Bill, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who rose to his present exalted rank thanks to his credentials as a celebrity in a mindless noontime television program, used without proper attribution portions of someone else’s blog post in his speech against it, and translated for inclusion in it parts of a speech by Robert F. Kennedy.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) have launched an online means of identifying and guarding against the spread of fake news. They’re using Fakeblok, the Google Chrome plug-in which flags fake news on Facebook. This enterprise is in addition to efforts by some media organizations to fact-check the statements of news sources and to closely monitor their own reports.
FORMER SENATOR Panfilo Lacson says he’s having a hard time doing his job as the Aquino administration’s “rehabilitation czar,” complaining only a week ago that two members of the Aquino Cabinet have been deliberately thwarting his efforts to rehabilitate the areas in the Visayas razed by super typhoon Yolanda.
Lacson claimed that the two Cabinet secretaries, whom he refused to name, have been ignoring his calls, text messages, and even official correspondence. In an indirect indictment of the administration that appointed him, the head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) said things either move slowly or not at all. He also claimed he has not received any response from the two officials.
The conventional wisdom is that the Philippines has good, even great laws, but that the problem is in the implementation, which is done either badly or not at all. The country, so say the conditional and eternal optimists, would otherwise be an earthly paradise via legislation.
But anyone who’s been following the decisions of the Supreme Court should have reason enough to question the validity of that claim. In its most recent rulings, the Court was practically warning the citizenry to scrutinize every major piece of legislation ground out by the Congressional lawmaking mill—they’re likely to be constitutionally flawed.
Dozens of Philippine bloggers, and academics from the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines, have filed an ethics complaint against Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III for plagiarism.
The complaint came at about the same time that the Senate received a letter from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late former US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was also the brother of former US President John F. Kennedy, demanding an apology from Sotto for passing off as his own, portions of a speech Robert Kennedy delivered in 1966. US blogger Sarah Pope has also declared her intention to file a similar complaint, for Sotto’s use of her blog posts in the course of his arguing against the passage of the Reproductive Health bill.
IT MUST have been the maroon robes—and the fact that the senators of the Republic, with one outrageous exception, were on their best behavior in the glare of TV lights during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona early this year.
But the developing public impression of Senate gravitas, commitment to truth and justice, and good sense during that time—akin almost, though not quite, to the respect the Senate used to enjoy during the days of Claro M .Recto, Jose P.Laurel and Lorenzo Tanada—is fast giving way to collective disgust.
The appalling state of Philippine political and government institutions was painfully on display via what was happening to and in the Philippine Senate barely a week ago — on the eve of an election campaign that promises to be no better in the results than past electoral exercises.
As in the case of the Presidency, the House of Representatives and even the Supreme Court, Senate prestige and credibility has been on the decline since 1990. From the 1950s to the declaration of martial law in 1972 among the most respected entities of government, the Senate when revived after 1986 enjoyed only a brief period of public esteem, among other reasons because of the election to that body of incompetents and clowns who slept their way through its sessions, but at least one of whom managed to be President.