Who is on top?

A Research Paper on the Most Productive Members of the Lower House of 15th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines

 

Introduction

                        The 15th Congress of the Philippines was the first Congress session under the term of President Benigno Simeon Cojuanco Aquino III. It convened on June 26, 2010 and adjourned around June 2013. It was officially opened by the President together with a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is composed of 24 Senators headed by the Senate President then Juan Ponce Enrile. On the other hand, the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House Feliciano Belmonte.

                        The House of Representatives is commonly known as the Lower House and the Senate being the Upper House. The Lower House of the Congress is composed of district and party list representatives of the Philippines. Its Congressmen meet at the Batasan Pambansa Complex. Aside from the Speaker of the House, it has also six Deputy Speakers, one majority leader and one minority leader. The Lower House has 289 seats, 299 from legislative district and 56 from sectoral representatives. It has 4,565 bill made by the legislators and 567 of which became a law.

                        My research paper aims to find out who among the Congressmen in the Lower House are the most productive in terms of bills made and bills enacted into law. The methodology I made was that I just concentrated the study to the main authors only to avoid confusion and double enlistment of the bills. The group which I belong during the presentation of the dataset also agreed to take note of the committees on which the bill was referred. Our group limits our research paper on the Lower House only because of the time constraint and also for the greater concentration of the topic. It would be a subject of confusion and complexity if we include the Upper House on the study.

                        For just a brief explanation on the process of the passage of the bill, the bill is passed subsequent to three readings after its proposal. The first reading is where they conduct public hearings. It is also where the bill was referred to its corresponding committee. The second reading studies the committee report. It is also where sponsorship debates and amendments occur. The voting happens during the third reading. Then, the bill will be submitted to the other house which will undergo the same process of the three readings. After the other house approves the bill, the enrolled bill will be submitted to the President for approval and signing.

                        My paper was divided into four parts. The first part was the introduction that will give you a sight on the background of my study. The second part was the research and findings of my study. It also answers the most main question on this research paper. The third part shows what factors could affect the passage of a bill. Here, I only got the two among the many factors which I think matters the most in the Philippine context. The last was intended for the conclusions and generalizations.

The Research

                        Tallying the bills manually made by the Congressmen, who are only main authors, is not trouble-free because for every count you wrongly made, there will also be an effect to the total tally of the bills. In this part, we made a comparison. The first one is the “Bills Made” and the second one is the “Bills Passed/ Enacted into Law” in order to determine who among them are the most productive based on that category.

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                        On the first category, after a rigid and constructive manual tallying of the bills made, we listed the top ten Congressmen with the most number of bills made. On top of them was Rufus Bautista Rodriguez of the 2nd District of Cagayan de Oro who made 418 bills. On the second spot was Juan Edgardo Manalang Angara who has 226 bills. Third was Diosdado JM “Mikey” Macapagal Arroyo who has 149 followed by Joseph Victor Gomez Ejercito, popularly known as “JV” with 125 bills made. The following surnames are Teodoro, Escudero, Syjuco, Castelo, Biazon and Angping. As we have noticed, almost all of the surnames of Congressmen on the top ten are popular and powerful surnames that we often hear on the news be it on the television, radio or even newspaper.

                        On the second category, we further break down the bills made by the main authors to the number of bills they actually passed or enacted into law. The same procedures were made on tallying with the first category. The most productive Congressmen in terms of bills enacted in law was Jerry Perez Trenas of the Lone District of Iloilo with 19 bills enacted into law out of 38 bills made. Following him on the second place was Eduardo Rivera Gullas of the 1st District of Cebu with 18 bills passed out of 30 bills made. The third most productive wass Manuel Swegen Agyao with 17 bills passed out of 19 bills made. Also on top 10 most productive were Vergara, Dalog, Farinas, Yu, Rodriguez, Escudero and Villafuerte. As we have noticed, only two out of ten most productive Congressmen bill filers were on the top 10 productive with most bills passed. They were Rufus Bautista Rodriguez (1st on the list) and Salvador Escudero (6th place).

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                        With these comparisons, we can conclude that it does not mean that if you have the most number of bills filed, you will become the most productive because in reality, anyone from the Congress can file a bill whenever they want. The greater challenge is if you file a bill, let it undergo and pass the stages of passage and let the President sign it, and then it will become a law. And that is the basis of a true productivity of a public officer especially the legislators. It is based not on the number of bills you made or filed but based on the number of bills you authored that was enacted into law.

Factors Affecting the Passage

                        Of course, the legislators cannot simply vote for a “yes” or a “no” to a particular billed filed whenever they want. Since they are a public officer and living in a world of politics, there will always be an external and internal factor that affects the passage of a bill. Yes, some legislators may be unbiased in deciding, in such a situation where they decide on certain matters according to certainty and how important is the bill. But we cannot also take for granted of the fact that there are still legislators, in fact majority of the legislators that have biases in their decision-making.

                        This chapter shows two of the many factors that can possibly affect the process of the passage of a bill. They are the political parties and the national budget (General Appropriations Act). Indeed, there are many external and internal factors but I assumed that these two are the most applicable in the political scenario of the Philippines.

A. Political Parties

                        In theory and principle, political parties should establish and practice certain ideology that serves as the backbone of their system. It serves as a foundation because strong political parties in a country will lead to a strong, efficient, less corrupt and less political dynasty dominating state. But we are all aware that it is not much of greater concern in the Philippine state of affairs. We might say that political parties in the Philippines may have their own beliefs and ideology but we cannot let go of the fact that party switching is a norm in the Philippine politics. Before the elections, some politicians tend to switch to parties with greater funds or where there a strong line up of slate. But after the elections, some already switch to the party of a one most powerful person in our country, the President. As a legislator, there are many reasons for switching to President’s party. One of which is that the possibility of an easier process of the passage of a bill.

                        As we all know, President Benigno Aquino is the standard bearer of the Liberal Party of the Philippines. In the 15th Congress particularly in the Lower House, 91 out of 281 seats are occupied by the Liberal Party. It is 32.38% of the total seats which constitutes the highest percentage. It simple means that the Liberals dominate the Lower House and there is a big possibility that they have an easier reach to the passage of the bill relative to non-Liberals because they got each other’s support. The Liberals was followed by the Sectoral or Party List Representatives with 19.93% and then followed by Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and the National Unity Party (NUP).

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                        Listed on the table were the top 15 most productive Congressmen of the 15th Congress and their corresponding political parties. Based on the table, the most productive Congressman Jerry Trenas was under a Liberal Party and six out of 15 were under the Liberal Party. Only one from the party list representative was on the top 15. Although there were no further similar researches to this, I assume that there is a correlation between parties dominating the Congress to the party of the Congressman filing a bill. 

B. National Budget (General Appropriations)

                        Another factor also affecting the passage of a bill was the budget allocations of the government to the departments. The 15th Congress covers the year 2010 up to 2013. And every year the appropriations increase from the previous year.

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                        Listed on the tables were the top 10 departments with the highest budget allocations. For four years, it is consistent that the Department of Education, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Agriculture were on the top five. And it is also unswerving that DepEd always get the highest budget allocation every year.

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                        Meanwhile, I also listed the top five committees where the passed bill was referred. On top was the Basic Education and Culture Committee with 225 bills enacted into law. That committee together with the Higher and Technical Education committee falls under the DepEd. The Public Works and Highways Committee with 91 bills enacted into law was also on the top five committees. As we can see, there is a correlation with the most prioritized departments in terms of budget allocation with the top committees with the highest number of bills passed and made into law. One possible reason for this is that legislators cannot pass a certain bill if there is no appropriate budget to spend for that project.

C. Other Factors

                        There are also other factors that can affect the passage of the bill. And one important/key player is the President as the veto player. Although the bill was supported and passed by both houses, the President can still veto it in his own discretion. Another power of the President is his authority to certify a certain bill as ‘urgent’. With that case, there will be a swift process of making a bill into law.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

                        Given all of these findings, why is it very important for legislators to have bills made and passed? According to one journal I’ve read, “…bills are very good position-taking devices in that they can appear to voters to be a credible step in the electoral process…” Credentials are important for a politician because it serve as his /her crowning glory. Those credentials especially the bills he passed or just even the bills he made will be of great help during campaign periods because people/voters want a legislator who works inside the Congress.

                        The bottom line of this research paper is that we should neither be blinded by the numbers of bills filed we see on their credentials nor the number of bills they enacted into law. Yes, it is important for a legislator to pass a bill because how small step it is, it is already considered as a big leap to his/her career. But the true productivity lies on the enactment of the law. The journey of a legislator does not end when the bill was already passed. His /Her job is to ensure that the statute should be felt and benefited by the people.

 

References

 

1. “House of Representatives,” last modified March 13, 2014, http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/?d=billstext

2.  “Department of Budget and Management” last modified March 15, 2014, http://www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=642

3.  “Budget ng Bayan: Summary Allocation” last modified March 14, 2014, http://budgetngbayan.com/summary-of-allocations/

4.  Leila Salaverria, “House approves P1.54 trillion budget for 2010,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 16, 2009

5.  “Proposed 2011 budget hit”, Sun Star Manila,  August 29, 2010, http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/proposed-2011-national-budget-hit

6. “Official Gazette,” last modified March 13, 2014, http://www.gov.ph/2011/06/30/president-aquino-approves-p1-816-trillion-proposed-budget-for-2012/

7.  Rappler.com, “Aquino signs P1.816-trillion 2012 budget into law,” Rappler, December 15, 2011

8.  Rappler.com, “Aquino signs P2-T 2013 budget,” Rappler, December 19, 2012

9.  “Budget ng Bayan: Budget Highlights” last modified March 13, 2014, http://budgetngbayan.com/2012-budget-highlights/

10.  Christine Avendano, “P1.8-trillion national budget signed for 2012”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec. 16, 2011

11.  RG Cruz, “House approves 2011 budget,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 8, 2010

12. Fernando Fajardo, “P Noy’s 2011 budget” Cebu Daily News, October 8, 2010

13.   “Koko Pimentel cries foul over Senate tribunal vote”Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 15, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010

14. Diaz, Jess (2010-06-26). “24 House members join Noy’s Liberal Party”The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2010-06-29

15.  “Comelec stops party-list from changing representatives”GMA News Online. 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2012-12-17

16.   “Supreme Court reverses self, rules Dinagat Islands a province”Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2011-11-08

17.  “Legislative Activities”Congress.gov.ph. Retrieved 2011-04-25

18. Torrezoga, Hannah (2010-12-14). “Senate ratifies national budget”Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 2011-04-25

19. “Comelec unseats Albay solon for being a Spanish citizen”. People’s Tonight, 27 July 2010. (Accessed on August 11, 2010)

20.  “Sen. Escudero’s father dies”ABS-CBNnews.com. 2012-08-13

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