It’s just a few days till we all trek to the precincts and cast our votes. I have this one last chance to address all of you, most of all those who will eventually get elected. And so I will use the power of the keyboard and social media in the hopes that my letter will be read by some….hopefully, all of you.
For the first time in many election periods, I am having great difficulty filling up the 12 slots for senator. Some people I know are saying there is a dearth of suitable candidates for the position. Maybe, maybe not. But one thing has definitely changed — I am now more choosy and discerning about who to vote for. And I am scrutinizing each and every one of you before making my choice.
I have already aired some of my voting criteria on social media so this letter will be different. I am addressing those of you who will get elected.
THE SEAT OF HONOR
The moment you take your oaths as Senators, Congressmen or local officials you are addressed as “Your Honor”. Being called Your Honor is not a mere title. It holds YOU accountable to living up to being honorable.
Merriam Webster has several definitions for honorable:
“attesting to creditable conduct; consistent with an untarnished reputation; characterized by integrity: guided by a high sense of honor and duty…”
I ask you to commit that description to memory, carry it with you into the Senate halls and live it.
For many years now I have watched televised investigations, hearings and deliberations in the Senate and in the House of Representatives and on many occasions, I have cringed at how some legislators carry themselves when exposed to the cameras. You may not be aware of the side discussions going on in social media when we watch proceedings but just to give you a flavor of some unflattering descriptions, they range from “circus” to “childish” to “grandstanding” to “waste of taxpayers’ money” to “dapat hindi siya binoto”. There are more.
As a little girl, I was mostly oblivious to politics. But I do remember the likes of Jovito Salonga, Raul Manglapus, Ramon Mitra Jr., Helena Benitez, Emmanuel Pelaez, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Arturo Tolentino, Gerry Roxas and some more others. We had a Congress then that we could hold up to the world, one we could be proud of. But over the decades, the honorable image of the Senate has been marred. Stories of corruption, horse trading, backdoor negotiations and the like haunt you. Ask the man on the street what is the trust level of both houses of Congress and be surprised at the answers.
We long for the days when the interests of the people clearly become the foundation of all bills filed. We want our Congressmen and Senators to be mature, dignified legislators. We want statesmanship brought back to the Senate.
Make us proud of you. Make us feel you were indeed worth electing to the position of honor where you represent us. Act honorable. Be honorable. Remember that you were put there not by your money or talents, but BY THE PEOPLE. You are a public servant. SERVE.
This campaign period, we have seen your TV ads, listened to radio jingles, watched you on TV, and for some we actually interviewed you. In all these, you said you represented something or will fight for something once elected.
We are holding you to your words. And we will watch closely to see what your next steps in the Senate or Congress or local government will be.
If you are not yet on social media, we are hoping you will be, once elected. If you are already there, we ask that you stay engaged, with an ear to the social media ground.
The buzz on social media can oftentimes be confusing and to a legislator-elect, often painful to read especially if one is criticized online. But if you can filter out the trolls and the unproductive comments and focus on those who sincerely want change, you will see that most netizens just want you to reach out, explain issues, engage and discuss.
What is in it for you? You get feedback direct from the ground. No edits. Raw. But honest. We may criticize constructively but we are willing to give praise where it is due.
CITIZEN ADVOCACY IS HERE TO STAY
Some of you, who have been in the political scene for a long time, were used to a different political arena where you were pretty much left alone to craft laws and legislate. Citizens always took a hands-off stance.
Citizen advocates are growing in number and, coupled with social media and technology, are in a position not only to watch and be vigilant, but also to help you do your jobs better by using our social media presence and networks in times of disasters, to give you feedback on draft bills, alert you to issues that need immediate attention, and keep you informed of goings-on that can aid legislation.
We hope you do not view us as your critics; rather, we hope you view us as an active citizenry willing to volunteer time to reshape this country into a better, more progressive, and graft-free one.
IMPORTANT ISSUES TO ME
Lastly, these are the issues I will closely follow when the 16th Congress opens.
REPEAL OF THE CYBERCRIME LAW. The more controversial points can not just be excised from this law. We think cut-and-paste will not make this a better law. Our stand is to have you consider the Magna Carta for Internet Freedom (MCPIF) or SB 3327 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. MCPIF is a better thought-out bill as it includes cybercrimes missed out in the present law while excluding the points of contention which are violative of human rights.
PASSING OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (FOI) LAW. We want this finally passed in the 16th Congress without the clear delaying maneuvers we saw in the 15th Congress. Transparency and good governance can only happen when press and citizens have access to information that should be made public. It is a challenge to pass a law that will impact you directly. Are you up to the challenge?
ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH-RELATED LAWS. I have a personal advocacy for health and wellness and the preservation of our environment. I would like to see you support bills to improve the health benefits of Filipinos and preserve our natural resources, rather than have these exploited for commercial purposes.
The late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo has given us all a glimpse of what servant (‘tsinelas’) leadership is all about. I personally want to see more of his kind elected. A true public servant is what this country direly needs at this time when our economy is rebounding and the sick man of Asia is finally recovering.
ARE YOU THE PUBLIC SERVANTS WE ARE LOOKING FOR?
On May 13, all my kids will be voting along with me. We would have made our choices after a long and deliberate evaluation. Many netizens we know are doing the same.
Please prove we did not vote for you in vain.