By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Raising the qualifications of a senatorial candidate would threaten the country’s democracy, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday.
Sotto stated this when asked in a press briefing on the possibility of upgrading the standards of elective officials, specifically senators, after former police chief and administration senatorial bet Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa had said he has yet to acquaint himself with lawmaking and other functions of Senate.
Dela Rosa’s statement during a televised interview drew flak from netizens, particularly from his critics.
But Sotto said the 1987 Constitution already spells out the qualifications to become a senator, and raising these, would require the amendment of the Constitution.
“Ang nakalagay sa Constitution: Read and write, di ba? Even for president? Baguhin natin. Baguhin natin ang Constitution kung ganyan ang feeling ng mga kababayan natin (Isn’t it the the qualification for senatorial or even for president is to be able to read and write? We have to amend the Constitution is that is the sentiment of the people),” Sotto said at the regular Kapihan sa Senado news forum.
But Sotto said he does not agree with any revision of the qualifications.
“Then hindi na demokrasya ‘yun. Mahirap. Napakatagal nang panahon, even in the more developed countries, they have never touched that (That is no longer democracy. Fo so long, even in developed countries, the qualification has never been amended),” he said.
“Madaling sabihin kasi ‘yon… kailangan abogado ka, pero sa Senate, kahit hindi. Eh ‘yon nga ang demokrasya. Hindi naman porke kasi wala kang pinag-aralan, hindi ka na pwedeng maging magaling na leader (It’s easy to say that one should be a lawyer to become a senator. But in the Senate, it’s not a qualification. That is democracy. It does not necessarily mean that if you lack education, you won’t become a good leader),” he added.
With his inclusion in the Top 12 of initial tallies of the senatorial elections, Dela Rosa is poised to become a senator.
Despite earning a master’s degree in public administration and a doctorate degree in development administration, the former top cop said he lacks knowledge in lawmaking.
Instead, he banks on his experience as a law enforcer in gunning for a Senate post.
Aside from lawmaking, Sotto said another “important” consideration for a senator is his or her voting record, or stand on issues.
“Malaking bagay yan, dapat diyan maganda, excellent voting record ka. When you talk about bills, you talk about kung ano yung pinag-uusapan. Importante yung boto natin (Having an excellent voting record is a key consideration. When you talk about bills, you talk about the current issues and the senator’s vote is important),” he said.
Section 3 of Article 6 of the Constitution states, “No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, and on the day of the election, is at least thirty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.”
According to the Senate’s website, these qualifications fall “under the Latin principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius.”
“This means that Congress cannot anymore add additional qualifications other than those provided (for) by the Constitution,” it added.
Earlier, Sotto said the Senate will orient new senators on legislative processes when the 18th Congress opens. Other senators also expressed willingness to share their wisdom to neophyte lawmakers.