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Quo vadis?

Every now and then Congress comes under attack for some perceived excesses. Latest case in point was the House of Representatives’ investigation looking into alleged wrong-doings of Senator Leila de Lima.

Observers noted that some legislators went out of bounds, asking about details of the relationship between the lady senator and her admitted lover-driver-bodyguard.

All of which, according to observers, were “irrelevant” , “improper”, “in poor taste”, “inappropriate”, “bordering on voyeurism”, “blatant slut shaming”, “unparliamentary” (you name it).

Admittedly, both houses of Congress are empowered to conduct investigations “in aid of legislation” and/or “in the exercise of their oversight functions.” But where do you draw the fine line between legitimate investigations and those which are “in aid of re-election” and/or those “in aid of persecution”.

Absent such guideline, so much time is wasted in investigations which sidetrack Congress from what it should focus on.

From the peanut gallery, let me venture some reason/s why this is happening.

The short answer is: Congress does not have a clear vision of what it wants to achieve.

This lack of vision can be fatal. We are all aware of the biblical injunction that “where there is no vision, the people perish”. We also also cognizant of the common sense dictum that “when you don’t know where you are going, any road can lead you there.”

Members of the House of Representatives are elected for three year terms while senators are elected for six year terms. In the case of the HOR, it is often said, in jest of course, that they spend the first year learning about the job, the second year working, and the third year trying to get re-elected.

With a very short time horizon, the general tendency is to focus on NOW. Not much consideration is given to what needs to be achieved farther down the road. Thus, the traditional responses to perceived problems are tactical, day-to-day and ad hoc. Not much strategic thinking going on, as far as I know.

The document that comes closest to a legislative road map is the Legislative Calendar. Unfortunately, it does not say much. It merely marks the days when Congress shall be in session and when it shall be in recess. The only value it serves is as a vacation planner.

But better late than never. The leadership in both houses can still work out something, preferably a joint vision which will be most helpful in moving our country forward. They can even go one step farther and try to work out a national vision together with the Chief Executive.

This will ensure that the national leadership, both from the Legislative and Executive Departments, will be on the same page. Yes, they are supposed to be separate and independent of each other. But who says they can not work together.

The formulation of a national vision is just one-half of the work. But it is the beginning. Of course, the other important half is the execution and monitoring of the plans to attain the national vision.

“El Comandante”
Even in death, El Comandante Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba for more than 50 years, continues to divide the Cuban people and the world.

Cuban Americans who were forced to flee persecution in Cuba consider him as a brutal dictator. The Cuban Americans jumped with joy upon hearing of the news of Castro’s death. But in Havana, tens of thousands flooded Revolution Square to pay their last respect for Castro.

Among world leaders, the reaction was also mixed. North Korea was effusive in its praise of Castro and even declared 3 days of national mourning. President-elect Donald Trump slammed Castro, but expressed hope that the latter’s passing will open a new era of relationship with the Cuban people. Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, who earlier praised Castro, was cold-shouldered at home.

As of this writing, the state funeral was scheduled to be attended only by lower-level foreign functionaries.

But this much is clear. Fidel Castro will be buried in style – not in a sneaky fashion – in the city of Santiago where the Cuban revolution started five decades ago.

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(Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye)