Drilon to neophyte senators: Study, observe first traditions in the Senate

Published May 20, 2022, 5:07 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday urged incoming neophyte senators in the 19th Congress to first study and observe the traditions in the Senate.

Drilon, whose term expires on June 30, offered these tips when asked about his advice to newbie senators.

“Sa akin po, dapat mag-aral sila dahil po yung Senado ay parang aquarium; 24 lang sila at ang buong bansa ang nakatingin lalo na ngayon may social media (For me, they should study because the Senate is like an aquarium; they are only 24 members and the whole nation is observing them, especially these days when there is social media),” Drilon said in an online interview.

As part of the learning curve, Drilon also said the neophytes should observe the traditions in the Senate.

For one, they should know that a senator cannot vote when he or she is not in the session hall, he pointed out.

Drilon recalled an instance when a senator complained why he was not allowed to vote while he was at the Senate lounge.

“In a crucial vote, you must be physically present…These are the things that you learn from actual experience because sometimes, there are occasions that one vote would make a difference,” he explained.

However, certain rules of the Senate have been amended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing senators to participate virtually or physically during plenary sessions and committee hearings.

Senate tradition also dictates that “senior” lawmakers “would be given priority” in selecting chairmanship of a major committee, rather than being just a “topnotcher.”

While “everybody is qualified” to chair a major Senate panel, Drilon said “seniority” plays a role as a matter of Senate tradition.

“The tradition in the Senate is that seniority is given weight and recognition…Of course, everything is a matter of compromise but certainly being a topnotcher is a factor in your favor,” he said.

“But as far as I recall, seniority is a determining factor, or is a weighty consideration or a heavier consideration rather than your rank in the election,” Drilon stressed.

The lawmaker said he does not recall any neophyte senator getting the Senate Committee on Finance or the Committee on Ways and Means and the Blue Ribbon Committee.

The Senate finance panel is currently chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara, while outgoing Senator Richard Gordon heads the blue ribbon panel. Sen. Pia Cayetano chairs the Senate ways and means panel.

Drilon recalled that he was criticized for accepting the chairmanship of the Senate blue ribbon committee when he first entered the Senate in 1995 as members are aware he is a neophyte lawmaker.

At that time, then Senate President Edgardo Angara, passed on to him the blue ribbon panel much to the dismay of the other senators.

“He was criticised for that and I was criticized for accepting it—not in public, but within the Senate,” he said.

“I was a neophyte senator, so there are certain traditions which we observe,” he said.

Actor Robin Padilla, broadcaster Rafael “Raffy” Tulfo and former public works and highways secretary Mark Villar are the three neophyte senators who would be joining the next Congress.