By Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Now comes into the 18th Congress four neophytes and returning senators who are full of hopes and dreams for the Filipino people and, of course, for their political future.
The four first-timers who landed in the “Magic 12” in the May, 2019 mid-term elections are Christopher Lawrence “Bong’’ Go, 45; Imee R. Marcos, 63; Francis N. Tolentino, 59; and Roland dela Rosa,57.
Meanwhile, former senators Pia Cayetano, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., will be heading back to the Senate in the 18th Congress. The three have completed two terms as senators from 2004 until 2010, and 2010 to 2016.
The seven incoming senators have been open in their support for President Duterte’s administration.
Go, Tolentino, and Dela Rosa belong to President Duterte’s party, PartidoDemokratikong Pilipino (PDP)-Laban whose president is former
Senate President and reelectionist Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
Presidential daughter and Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, founder of a regional party called Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), supported the Senate bid of the Go, Dela Rosa, Tolentino, Marcos, Cayetano, and Revilla. Lapid, on the other hand, ran under the Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition.
Senator Imee Marcos
When the Senate formally opens its doors on July 22 for the 18th Congress, Marcos follows the political path of her late father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos who was elected senator in 1959, and her brother, Ferdinand “Bongbong’’ R. Marcos Jr. who is still stuck in his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
She said her first three bills that she promised in the May 2019 mid-term elections would focus on poverty reduction in the country which she labeled as “scalable’ based on lessons learned in Ilocos Norte, improvement of the Barangay system because she is the first candidate to come from a barangay; and the resolution of the low Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) sharing for provinces.
Marcos insists that she isn’t out to take her critics down.
“To all the bashers, all the haters, to everyone mad at us (Marcoses), do not be afraid of me because I am not vengeful. I will just do my job,’’ Marcos said after she was proclaimed winner by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
But her academic background still hounds her.
Princeton University in October 2018 confirmed that although Ms. Marcos attended the school, she did not graduate, contrary to the candidate’s claims.
Marcos had said she went to Princeton “and as far as I know, I graduated.’’
Senator Bong Go
As a special assistant to President Duterte, Go said he went to Bangkok in his own personal capacity as private adviser to the President.
“Once I officially assume office as Senator, I will not be able to be with him (President Duterte) all the time but I will still assist him if my services are needed in certain occasions and as long as it is in the best interest of the country,’’ he added.
Go stressed that he would continue to serve the President as his long time trusted aide.
“I will balance my willingness to support the President in my own capacity and my mandate as an elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines,’’ he stressed.
In a media interview after the recent briefing orientation for the newly elected senators and their staff organized by the Senate Secretariat,
Go said he is looking forward to officially start his work in the senate as a legislator.
“I am excited to act as senator. I have 20 years of experience in government. I work during breakfast, lunch and supper. I work even in my dreams. This is a new challenge in my life,” Go said in Filipino.
Go said he could not believe that he is now a senator.
Senator Ronald Dela Rosa
To Dela Rosa, there is no marching orders from President Duterte but the President had advised him to do what is right for the Filipinos.
The former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief said he would make sure that foreign drug lords would think twice before coming or operating in the Philippines by seeking congressional approval of his bill that would impose the death penalty on those possessing a minimum of one kilo of “shabu’’ (crystal meth).
This is one of the 10 priority bills that he would soon file.
Dela Rosa said he is not scared of his new job where he now sits as “inquisitor’’ and not as a “scared’’ resource speaker during Senate committee hearings.
“Senador na ako ngayon (I’m now a senator),’’ Dela Rosa quipped.
Senator Francis Tolentino
After failing on his first try, Tolentino will finally be sitting as a senator in the 18th Congress.
He lost to Sen. Leila de Lima who placed 12th in the 2016 senatorial elections. He raised his defeat before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, until deciding to withdraw his protest and try anew his luck in the 2019 Senate race.
With his experience in the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local government – he was a former Tagaytay mayor – the administration allied senator-elect said he will push for measures that will improve the country’s preparation for disasters as well as bills that will benefit the LGUs.
“[I will focus] more on disaster management preparing and local government issues,” he told reporters in an interview on Tuesday, June 25.
Aside from advancing the welfare of local government units, Tolentino said he will also prioritize the creation of a Department of Water, which he believes will solve the country’s problems on water supply.
In their return, the three former senators said they would continue to work on their advocacies.
Senator Pia Cayetano
Cayetano was known to be an advocate of women’s rights and health.
In the Senate, she sponsored the Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act10354), as well as the Sin Tax Reform Act (RA 10351) and the Graphic Health Warning Act (RA 10643), among other bills that were signed into law.
Amid criticisms on her supposed silence on President Duterte’s remarks against women, Cayetano said she has not given up her fight for women’s rights.
“People who know the work that I do know that I have never faltered, I have never wavered in the fight for women’s work, women’s right. Never ever,” she said in an interview over ANC after the elections, noting that she has long been working with women’s groups.
Senator Bong Revilla
Revilla, too, had had his share of criticisms. Aside from his plunder and graft cases, he was ridiculed for supposedly dancing his way back to the Senate and banking on his good looks instead of his advocacies.
Revilla vowed that he will be performing as a lawmaker when he sits anew as a senator, saying he will continue what he has so far done for the Filipinos.
“I have a number of pending bills to file/ re-file this coming 18th Congress. Of my priority measures to propose, I will be pushing for a legislated decent living wage for our workers in the private sector and an increase in the salary of workers in the public sector especially the salary of teachers, nurses, barangay officials, tanods, and health workers,” Revilla told the Manila Bulletin in an email interview.
“I also have bills prepared for the benefit of our OFWs, senior citizens, and retirees, and a number of health care bills, and legislation aiming to shore up the country’s agriculture and educational system,” he added.
During the 14th Congress, Revilla authored the Mandatory Helmet Act (Republic Act 10054), which required motorcycle riders and backriders to wear standard protective helmet to reduce the motorcycle-related accidents in the country.
Senator Lito Lapid
Lapid, likewise, said his unfinished business for the poor prompted him to run for senator in the 2019 elections.
“Because I had more than 500 proposed laws which I have yet to continue. They have to be passed especially those important ones that will benefit our poor countrymen,” he said in Filipino during a press briefing last February.
The action star-turned-politician took pride in his pet bill, the Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010, which sought to give the poor access to quality legal services free of charge.