Editorial & Opinion

EDITORIAL: The learning curve

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Nearly half of the new members of the House of Representatives who will assume office on July 22 are taking up a crash course on legislation at the University of the Philippines—National College of Public Administration and Governance.

The neophyte lawmakers signed up for the course to gain a working knowledge of the concepts and dynamics of legislation, know how to spend their pork barrel and see their work in the context of development.
Among their trainors are members of the UP faculty and other lawmakers who share their experience and expertise.

One of the highlights of the course was the first-day agenda on the Priority Development Assistance Fund.  Veteran House member Edcel Lagman reminded the newcomers that they should spend money on needs rather than wants, ensure that projects benefit more people and not just their supporters, and go for programs that would reach constituents in the farthest-flung areas.

All this is good in theory, and we give credit to those humble enough to recognize that they have a lot more to learn about their new job. We wonder what kept the other half of the batch from joining.

We must remember however that many of these neophyte lawmakers cannot be deemed strangers to how Congress words —in practice, not in ideology. Relatives of incumbents or former lawmakers, however, who ran and won on the mere strength of their family name, would likely be familiar with the discretion—and the temptation—that comes with the millions of pesos in the so-called pork.

Outside of the PDAF, there are many things to learn, as well. Choosing the right legislative staff is key to conducting an effective office, but one must not rely on them completely. Being congressman, after all, is hard work, and the time for waving and smiling and making promises is over, at least for the meantime.

The newcomers must also learn, even as some may already know, that legislative work is not merely agonizing on how laws and resolutions are written and then arguing proposals well. It is, instead, toeing party lines, compromising, and, in some instances, horse-trading.

Indeed, if one enters the House idealistic and seized with a desire to make a difference, it is very easy to lose steam early on in the game.

All these, no amount of UP-initiated training can give.

The new batch of lawmakers, who number about 60, must realize that despite the public’s negative perception of House members in general, their fresh faces make us hopeful of an even fresher perspective.  They must not just warm their seats but justify their occupancy of them, every day for the next three years. (Manila Standard)

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