By Elinando B. Cinco
It is always worth the while observing government inquiries like a legislative hearing done decades ago and comparing it to similar procedure today, as witnessed by our present generation.
As a college student in the late fifties, and having a sitting senator for an uncle, and a cousin for a congressman, legislative probes were like a magnet that stirred my interest in them.
As I can still distinctly recall, public hearings conducted by the national government were placid and staid that many college students looked forward to attending.
Held mostly in mid-morning at the Congress Building (housing both the Senate and the House) on P. Burgos Street in Manila, the panelist lawmakers were dignified and impeccably dressed in “terno” white suit and trousers, or in double-breasted “Americana.”
And there was no mistaking, invited witnesses came well-prepared and well-dressed too in attire and demeanor. Their serious-looking lawyers exhibited an image of aptitude.
The senators and congressmen who were mostly lawyers were a picture of intelligence and dignified upbringing. They conversed in a clear, polite, and lucid style that left everyone in the audience in awe and in admiration.
All this contrasts with present-day public hearings held at either the Senate in the reclaimed area in Pasay City or at the Batasan complex in Batasan Hills in Quezon City.
Audiences on live TV and those present in the Plenary Hall gallery will sense that the principal personalities and hosts are there for “the media exposure of it.”
Many government witnesses are ignorant of the facts and figures they are expected to possess as mandated by their position in government.
Oftentimes, these personalities, when queried by probing panelists, would turn off the switch of the microphone in front of them and turn around to seek the help of staffers they brought along as resource persons.
In like manner, we have seen many times panelists who, to cover up their inadequacy on the subject being discussed, would resort to irrelevant stage gestures and dialogue. It is at this juncture that one could hear many in the gallery talking in loud whispers, “This guy is surely grandstanding!”
It is also in this scenario that the name of this senator comes about. He has this penchant of dominating the self-dialogue that is laden with irrelevant references. He does all the talking, leaving his co-panelists and the audience yawning and then heading for the exit doors.
Mind you, during those halcyon days of legislative hearings, the hosts did not even serve snack or lunch fare to the invited witnesses.
Meanwhile, I was privileged to witness the mid-morning hearing on Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Bills, last September 14. The focus that day was on the Current Tax Treatment of the Coal Industry in the Philippines.
The forthright view of concerned executives representing the energy producers and commercial users of energy produced by coal is that the planned increased taxation on the item will have an untold negative impact on consumers, by way of increased electricity rates and services.
Statement of The University Of Santo Tomas: “We received news report that a UST law student, Horacio Castillo III, died in an alleged hazing incident involving the Aegis Juris Fraternity. No words can describe our sadness for this unfortunate incident. We express our profound sympathy and offer our prayers to his family for their pain and anguish – a pain that we share seeing that the life of our very own student, with all of his aspirations and potentials, taken away because of a senseless act.
“At the same time, we condemn in no uncertain terms hazing in any form or manner. Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly in the University of Santo Tomas that values and promotes charity and compassion. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators be meted out the appropriate sanctions and brought to justice.
“Investigation is ongoing to ferret out the truth, determine liability, and institute the necessary legal actions.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate the Christian values and ideals that hold us together and reject anything contrary to them.”