People first before politics –– Jojo Binay

‘As elected lawmaker, a congressman must articulate the people’s sentiments’
FORMER Vice President Jejomar Binay has underscored the need for an independent Congress with legislators who can articulate the urgent concerns of their constituents, and engage in debates on national issues.

“Members of Congress are elected by the people primarily to enact national laws. These are laws that will provide the basis and rationale for executive programs addressing the people’s urgent needs,” Binay said.

“It is therefore imperative that the elected representatives to Congress can articulate the sentiments of the people they represent,” he added.

Binay, who is running for representative of Makati’s first district as the official candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) ticket of incumbent Makati Mayor Abby Binay, spoke of the qualities a Congressman must possess during a recent forum on good governance.

“Dapat ay handa na magpanukala ng mga batas, humarap at makipagtalakayan sa mga kapwa kongresista, opisyal ng national government, mga kilalang eksperto sa larangan ng ekonomiya, pamamahala at iba pang usapin na hinaharap ng bansa,” he said. (He must be ready to propose laws, and to face and engage in debate his fellow lawmakers, officials of the national government, and experts on economic matters, governance and other national issues faced by the nation at present.).

The former Makati mayor said that as a Representative, one must be capable of engaging in debate, and prepared to stand up and fight for the welfare of his constituents and of the entire nation.

“The process of lawmaking is serious business that should not be left to the unprepared, unprincipled and inarticulate,” he stressed.

The UNA congressional bet decried efforts to amend the Constitution and extend the control of the executive department over other branches of government, which have threatened the independence of these institutions.

“Congress, in particular, should be an independent and co-equal branch of government, alongside the Executive and the Judiciary. Yet in practice, any newly-elected President would always move to secure control of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives,” he stated.

He pointed out how it has become a “political ritual” that in the first months of a new administration, most legislators would abandon their previous parties to join the party of the new President. Thus, the system of checks and balances is abandoned in exchange for total loyalty to whoever occupies the seat of power.

“Our institutions, most especially the legislature, should never be a party to plots to prolong one group’s or one person’s stay in power at the expense of democracy and our Constitution. Congress should be an institution to build a country and achieve a vision, not a tool to undermine democracy,” Binay stressed.

The former vice president said too much partisanship has left no room for sober discussion on important issues, noting it was time for Congress to regain its role as fiscalizer. “I do not mean an obstructionist Congress, or legislators that oppose for the sake of opposing. What times demand is a constructive legislature and constructive legislators,” he said.

“The priority should be the welfare of the people over political or party affiliations,” Binay said.

He said Congress should debate how to allot government resources equitably, how to mitigate the impact of inflation, and how to share the gains of economic growth with the citizens.

“I believe it is time for Congress to be truly representative of the people rather than the ruling power. It may be a daunting challenge but I hope that, if given the opportunity, I will be equal to such a challenge as the Representative of the People Makati,” Binay said.

As Vice President of the Philippines from 2010 to 2016, Binay came to be known as the “Working Vice President”, successfully breaking out of the proverbial “spare tire” label attached to the post. He served multiple posts that gave him the opportunity to help the poor and marginalized sectors. Among these were Presidential Adviser on OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) Concerns, and Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordination Council (HUDCC).