Friday, July 4, 2008

The Most Productive Senator


Herman Tiu Laurel


With 42 bills filed and two resolutions raised in the Senate, the presence of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV doesn’t seem to have lacked in any way. Although unable to be physically present, his indomitable spirit, indefatigable energy, boundless commitment and creativity continue to permeate the life of the Senate. His 11 million voters should stand proud for having made such a wise decision to defy the lies and perfidy of the Gloria Arroyo regime by electing him, and the senator has not failed them despite that great restrictions and onerous impositions that have been used against him. Harassed with court cases and held incommunicado to media, and even to his staff, the soldier-turned-senator has nevertheless continued to deliver on his pledge to serve the people.

His service is one of genuine distinction, having taken up the bills that require the most courage to espouse. In particular, of the 42 bills, I salute SBN’s (Senate Bill Nos.) 1448, 1591, 2254, 2273, 2302, 1467, which are, in sequence: An Act repealing the eVAT Law; An Act Amending the Automatic Appropriations Law; An Act providing for a ceiling on all pubic debts of the Republic of the Philippines and for other purposes; An Act that seeks to trim down the areas of investments of GSIS to only those that assure predictability in order to protect the mass of members from the vagaries of trade and commerce; and An Act defining the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippine Archipelago. For me, these five are the cream of the 138 bills that Senator Trillanes has filed as senator.

The first four SBs I cited above are all on vital financial issues that beset the country, with the first, a thrashing of the eVAT which has put tremendous burden on our people — shrinking purchasing power, draining their cash flow, starving the economy and putting all goods and service beyond their reach. The second SB puts a lid on the continuing payment of our national debt that is done without legislative or public review. Automatic appropriations for payment of the national debt are among the most fundamental of the country’s crises, if not the root problem of this nation. The eVAT has its roots in these appropriations, and the repeal of this law will force an immediate debate on their onerous character, and a review of all debts and our treatment of these can finally surface.

The third SB sets limits on the debts that the nation’s chief executive, the legislature and finance authorities can contract in behalf of the people. This will go a long way in controlling the wanton disregard for caution and of the national interest. As was the case in the NBN-ZTE and NorthRail projects, there has been callous disregard for the concerns of taxpayers when authorities associated with Gloria Arroyo and the ruling power elite contracted debts left and right because they knew these were guaranteed through people’s taxes. As this abuse must end, Sen. Trillanes took a gigantic step to help us contain the “debt mania” of government officials. We should have regular referendums on debt-based projects and all major debt transactions because we, the people and our children, and their children, are obliged to pay these debts which irresponsible politicos — past and present — wantonly sign on to.

The fourth SB reins in on the financial abuse in the government employees’ social service institution. We all should know that these investment funds have suffered wild gyrations in the past decade, losing trillions of dollars in the process — like the bubble and the recent subprime collapse now bringing down stock markets and investment houses all over the world. Sen. Trillanes’ bill would insulate social service institution funds from speculation and secure the future of over a million government employees.

Finally, one of the latest bills filed by Sen. Trillanes that has become a celebrated issue a few months ago is the definition of the baselines of the country, which entails a warning that the failure to comply with a timely clarification and definition would cause the loss of the country’s valuable economic zones.

One SB, the act setting limits on the power of the President to reappoint bypassed nominees, is a direct response to the abusive “interim appointments” Gloria Arroyo has been making for her favorite gofers like Angie Reyes. Bypassed for the nth time, Reyes is persistently reappointed, and to a merry-go-round of positions. By the way, Gloria is on an “rejects appointments” spree again, with those rejected in the 2007 senatorial elections getting plum jobs — Mike Defensor to NAIA III and Ralph Recto to the SSS (Neri is only a decoy), while the retiring Albano will be replaced by daughter-in-law Mylene Garcia-Albano as a reward for doing Gloria’s bidding in the energy sector. Government posts are also inherited under Gloria’s regime. Sen. Trillanes has to craft more bills designed to contain abuses by Gloria, over and over the 138 bills he has written.

Meanwhile, we’ll get back briefly to our “Speculation 101.” One aspect we didn’t have space to include in our Monday column is the need for the individual speculators to work together to “corner” the market and command the supply contracts.

The Philippines can fight back in the short term by restoring government and people’s control over the oil and energy sector and, in the medium term, expand its storage capacity for oil reserves to enlarge its purchases before each speculative increase of oil prices. Marcos was on the right track when he established the State oil companies, including oil tanker transportation facilities, but that’s why he was deposed.

(Tune to 1098AM, Mon. to Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for “Kape’t Kamulatan, Kabansa;” Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesdays, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for “Talk News TV” featuring Rey Robles of Trillanes’ Senate office on his annual report; and our blog,