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FOIA na Sana.. Naging Bato Pa

June 4, 2010

The recent failure by the Philippine Congress to ratify the Philippine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reverberated in the various newspaper headlines. Whether it was the Businessworld, or Philstar, Inquirer, GMA News. The bigger headline should have been that the legislation was not passed – FOR LACK OF A QUORUM.

Absenteeism in Philippine Congress

In corporate terms this is what is referred to as an epic performance failure. In the Philippine Congress, this is called – just another day at “work”.

Out of 268 members, all that was needed was for 135 members (50%) to show up and pass the bill. Of the needed 135, only 128 were present – an attendance rate of 47%, or absenteeism of 53%.

If a company were operating in this manner, the board will have already gotten together and initiated right-sizing, trimming the fat, removing the waste, and proceeded to operate in a lean manner. After all, what’s the point in having excess carrying cost brought about by the excess idle bandwidth.

But knowing the Philippines predicament – there is an abundance of public-service activities which can use the bandwidth. Unfortunately for the country, it has juvenile board members who happen to have a poor judge of character and ability – but that’s another story.

The Cost of Absenteeism

Congressmen’s offices, staff, travel, pork barrel – all of this generate a cost. Now, we taxpayers are willing to shoulder the cost of having a congressman and an office under the understanding that legislation is supposed to be produced by the lawmaker.

In the business world – that is his core responsibility, his raison d’ etre – the thing which justifies his paycheck.

The Cost of Presenteeism

Of course, the issue of Abseenteeism comes in parallel with Presenteeism. In Presenteeism, the lawmaker shows up in office, even though lacking in lawmaking skills, leading to very low productivity – sounds familiar?

The congressman holds office, comes to the office, has staff, travels, has pork barrel – but has no legislation to show for it. If there were legislation – it is of a trivial type.

Both cases of Absenteeism and Presenteeism are a source of waste – and therefore are drivers of cost.

This seems a fitting end and beginning of a batch of the Philippine Congress – united in katamaran, laziness. It reflects the Filipino penchant for ningas-cogon by ending in a whimper, and impunity by not showing up jut because they didn’t feel like doing so.

This has got to stop.

What Can Be Done About Erring Absentee Legislators?

This absenteeism has got to stop. It’s like adding insult to injury. The dishonorable lawmakers of the Philippines – the dishonorable C ongressmen and the dishonorable Senators are already receiving tremendous perks despite not doing anything at all – the very least they can do is to at least show up for work!

Here’s what “- lawmakers who are fiscalizers” – you are being fiscalized, get back to work and stop wasting taxpayers money! But that’s just a slap in the wrist.

We need something more effective. Do you know that the executive and judicial branches of government have rules for impeachment and/or recall while there is no similar rules on legislators?

Don’t get angry – get even.

Maybe it is high time for a citizens initiative to amend the constitution allowing for the recall of Congressmen and Senators?

What do you think?

p.s.  Stop voting for absentee congressmen!

From → Government

21 Comments
  1. Stop voting for absentee congressmen will not function in the countryside because Political Dynasties dictate and command their people when it comes to election. I experienced that in the last May 10, 2010 Elections.

    Amending the Constitution is a good idea but that will take time. No work, no pay regulation will also not function.

    That sinkhole from Morga – in a giant billboard to remind congressmen to go to work or else a Sparta Kick awaits them. That will probably help?

  2. Our paradigm has always been to look at the legislator as the only person who well.. legislate.
    And that, the lawmaker bring remiss in his job should be removed. But there are no mechanisms for doing that except through elections.

    When election happens, the cycle repeats itself. But, the cycle can be broken – through people’s initiative.

    Focus should be given to this provision and optimize its use.

    With the advent of the Internet, legislation powered by crowdsourcing can be a possibility – provided the requirements of the enabling law on people’s initiative are met. if there’s no enabling law – then lobby to get it passed.

  3. 128 out of the 135 needed. Wow. PITO na lang. Seven more guys wouldn’t spare a day for their Philippines. Talk about mixed priorities there. Here’s a big BOO for you, congress.

    I agree with you, Bong. Stop supporting these absentees.

    I have this suspicion that a LOT of people do not know the job functions of congressmen and senators. Ang alam lang nila most likely ay ang congressman at senador ay road builders kasi yun ang laging nakikita — blah blah project through the efforts of whoever na congressman.

    I also think that big media is focused too much on the president as if we’re living under a monarchy. Media should also look at the other representatives of government. Stupid congressmen, pinapaliit lang ang bottom line ng Pilipinas. They should be crafting laws that’ll help increase the top line.

    Good piece, Bong.

    Cheers!

    ps Mel raised a good point there. With those dynasties, how can the people “de-fang” these mafia-like families? At least, the nonperforming ones. They’re most likely of the guns, goons and gold type of politician.

  4. I think that the main reason why most of the congressmen/women were absent was that –

    MOST of them do not want the FOIA be passed. Their priorities are still their “family’s business”.

    Imagine the turmoil when people gain knowledge! That will be the end of their dynasties and irregularities.

    Get the best legal minds, Bong, and count me in in your People’s Initiative to ammend the constitution allowing for the recall of Senators and Congressmembers.

  5. brianitus,

    mel’s question intrigued me – leading to an alternative course of action.

    question is – if pinoys want said law to pass – are they willing to work to have it passed?

    ball is in pinoy’s court – our court – via people’s initiative 😳

  6. tikang permalink

    Another reason is these lawmakers think they can–at any time–enumerate excuses and that the common ‘masa’ will not care. Which is ALWAYS the case.

    How to ‘open the minds of the ‘commoners’ should be our main goal. I know there’s got to be a way!

  7. mel:

    that can be a strategic goal (amend constitution to include recall of congressmen/senators/legislators) – for now, we can have something more doable in the FOIA – boils down to getting the necessary signatures as required by law – RA 6375.

    this goes beyond the book blockade campaign – this is real-life honest to goodness enforceable legislation

  8. tikang:

    it appears that the Initiative and Referendum Act/RA 6735 provides the way

  9. miriam quiamco permalink

    I am for impeachment of chronically absent lawmakers, again, our honorable media practitioners should point this out and our esteemed academicians should lead the debate, it seems to me that this is part of our problems of underdevelopment. Apart from irrelevant media, the legislature itself is not taking its lawmaking duties earnestly, (with one who said no new laws are necessary in our land just got elected president) hence, we have not been able to move important pieces of legislation forward. The RH bill is such one important bill that should have been passed, but for last 21 years, it is still a controversial bill pending approval, and meanwhile, our population is exploding and no amount of economic growth could keep up with this growth, the highest in the region!

  10. miriam:

    apparently, the 1987 constitution is silent on the impeachment of lawmakers.

    the constitution is explicit in the process for the executive and the legislative – but there’s nothing about recall or impeachment of lawmakers.

    this is a carry over from the American constitution which also does not provide for impeachment of lawmakers.

    i am in favor of a constitutional amendment that allows impeachment and recall of lawmakers.

  11. bokyo permalink

    baka sinadya magabsent nung karamihan na yon. Sila din kasi madadale pag naipasa yun 😀

  12. You will never accomplish anything towards reforming the legislature or its output without eliminating the pork barrel. Full stop.

  13. Miriam Quiamco permalink

    I guess with the pork barrel, the legislators are busy having a good time in their respective provinces, I saw this on one from one of the poorest districts in Masbate who put up a bet of millions in a cockfight derby in Davao in March. I am also for eliminating pork barrel and for strengthening our branches of government in implementing projects in the countryside. Take for example basic public services like electricity, water and public health clinics, the government should make sure all barangays have these services available to the general populace. If we rely on the congressmen to spend their pork barrel on these basic services, then, we will have exactly the situation in the country, where many barangays don’t have electricity and water facilities.

    Davao is one such LGU that has barangays with uneven development in public services. If government agencies implement these projects, it will be more efficient and better for all concerned. In Japan, this is certainly the case, private providers of electricity and water supplies work with appropriate government agencies to serve all small government units.

  14. FOIA failure reflects one of my concerns about Filipino voters’ lack of knowledge: no matter how much they harp on the president, the Congress and Senate are the ones with the real power. The president seems to be the figurehead, set up to be the fall guy for all the dirty tricks that the solons and tongressmen do. I agree, we need a way to impeach congressmen and have them replaced. Thing is, ironically, the power to change those rules is in their hands too.

  15. killem permalink

    maybe our representatives deliberately absent themselves….

  16. Well, it certainly IS intentional.

  17. Right. You need to oblige the lawmakers to actually make laws to provide the services to their constituents that keep them in office. Pork barrel is short-cutting the whole process. My wife and I were talking about this problem with the FOI today, and we both agreed — if we were Congressmen, there would be no way in hell we’d support the measure, not under the system the way it is. Why should we? So the first problem is not the FOI, not at all. It’s to take away the incentive to reject it that comes with the status quo.

  18. Dr. José Rizal II permalink

    And one way to drastically lessen (or eliminate) the need for the Pork Barrel is…

    *drum roll*

    You guessed it! …The Parliamentary System!😉

    The reason is simple. The Pork Barrel in the Philippines is “legalized bribery and largesse” necessary for the Executive Branch to be able to get its legislative agenda and its budget approved because if we end up with a hostile Congress (esp. the House), the President won’t get anything done because the House (and perhaps the Senate) won’t be cooperative.

    But since that is unacceptable, the Pork Barrel was create as a means to entice Congress to be cooperative.

    In a Parliamentary System, that becomes totally unnecessary because the majority bloc within the legislature (esp. the lower House, since in all other countries except the USA and the Phils, the Lower House is always MORE POWERFUL than the upper house) is precisely the bloc that runs the Executive.

    By fusing/strongly-linking the Executive and the Legislative as it occurs in the Parliamentary System, you are assured that the Executive and the Legislative are in sync in terms of their platform and policies. There is, thus, less need to “bribe” and “cajole” a majority of lawmakers to cooperate, because the majority in the Legislature are by definition ALIGNED WITH THE EXECUTIVE (the Prime Minister and his cabinet).

    This is precisely why numerous studies always correlate the Parliamentary System with much lower levels of “corruption” (legal, such as the pork barrel, and illegal, other bribes).

  19. Miriam Quiamco permalink

    You are exactly right, theoretically , parliamentary system of government has enough safeguards against corruption and legislation can proceed smoothly due to the cooperation between executive and legislature. We did have an experiment with parliamentary system under Marcos, but of course, the problem was that, it was under martial law, so the system discouraged open debate of policies and was intolerant of dissent. This made the system closed and not receptive to creative input of ideas from various sectors, not to mention that the suspension of habeas corpus drove thousands to join the ranks of armed groups in the hills.

    But even in Japan where a parliamentary system of government is in place, corruption is still a major issue in government. A few years ago, electoral reforms were passed in parliament making it mandatory for politicians to declare sources of campaign contributions exceeding 500 dollars, politicians are given financial allocations to finance their campaign, TV ads are paid only by the government, with content approved before read by the leader of the party for a limited period of time. Still, a decade after its implementation, politicians of big political parties are still implicated in corruption scandals. A rival political party could conspire to bring down its opponents by leaking leads of a potential corruption issue to the press. What has become of the parliamentary system in Japan now is a government in a state of dysfunction.

    Having said the above, their form of government has brought the economic miracle that is the envy of many developed and developing nations worldwide. This could be attributed to the predominant party system in which only one political party was in power for 35 long years, with opposition parties acting as fiscalizers to its dominance. It is easy to see why this could be possible, there was continuance of policies for a long span of time by the same party, with input from minor parties in parliament. Marcos’ political party was in power for 20 years, the difference between the Japanese case and the Philippine case stems from the fact that although there must have been corruption in government during the LDP’s unchallenged dominance, money went to strengthen the political party so that its legislation could pass in parliament, oftentimes, used to buy the cooperation of minor parties. In our country, money stolen by Marcos went directly to his Swiss personal bank accounts under the name of his dummies.

    What kleptocracy indeed was the Marcos administration was, I was shocked to read from a blog here of the appraisal of the confiscated jewels, 340 million dollars! And what about the jewels Imelda failed to turn in. This is kleptocracy unmatched anywhere else in the region. This could never happen in Japan where stealing is tolerated to a certain extent if its perceived to benefit the greater good and not only one particular family.

  20. Rennan permalink

    So why does not the media dissect the issue in their own medium and inform people? Maybe even demonized the absent congressmen. For whatever reason, they are not entire without blame. The media could have done more and push with civil liberties societies. Of course, the bottom line is that we simply have electorate that keeps on voting for the rotten people, that is why we have rotten Philippines.

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