Now, what?

The campaign period is over and done with. Victory celebrations draw in people who are now more emboldened to show support for those who won. Losers find refuge in the consoling arms of family, friends, and diehard supporters. And what of the voters? They are in a hurry to move on, expecting the winners to perform yet knowing that some promises would never see the light of the day.

Winners in the senatorial race particularly those who are taking their seats for the first time in Senate history deserve a brief vacation to make fertile their plans for the future. In 2016, a new batch of candidates shall take to the hustings, including those privileged enough to run for the presidency. They, too, have their own war rooms – whether physical or intellectual, running full-steam on gallons of ambition.

For the newbies in the Senate, a word of advice – choose your staff well. The quality of your staff and consultants will reflect on your own quality as a legislator. A Senate office is not a haven for jobless relatives or mediocre supporters. It is an office that taxpayers expect to generate bills, resolutions, and laws; global research, and historical data as reference in world-class parliamentary debates.

Sen. OpleWhen my father, Blas F. Ople, was senator, he took in as consultants the likes of the late Budget Secretary Emy Boncodin, former energy Secretary Popoy Lotilla, Atty. Reynaldo Robles, a senior partner at ChanRobles & Associates, esteemed writers Alfredo dela Rosa and Fred Rosario, among several others. Friends like Constitutional Commissioner Dodong Maambong, legal luminary Justice Art Brion, and brilliant writers and thinkers Johnny Gatbonton and Rony Diaz were part of a more intimate cluster of trusted friends that helped Senator Ople define the national interest and communicate it to the people in the best way possible.

One is easily found out in the Senate. A newbie cannot hide because the Senate press corps is composed of sharp, witty journalists who also have their own substantial social media following. The best public relations officer can never take the place of the senator in press conferences and interviews. If the legislator is incompetent or arrogant or both believe me, word gets around fast.

After the elections, the courtship begins as legislators eyeing the Senate presidency or the Speakership of the House of Representatives start knocking on doors and sending out invitations to intimate luncheons and dinners. This courtship has an impact on the 2016 polls. President Aquino needs both chambers to ensure the completion of his reformist agenda. Part of this agenda is the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law to be crafted and presented by the Transition Commission created through an executive order signed by the President.

Backing a winning Senate president or House speaker means getting the right committees to chair or become a member of. For the more fortunate ones, a seat in the all-powerful Commission on Appointments is like melted butter on a sweet corn cob. Those who because of principles or party affiliations end up in the minority bloc have their work cut out for them. Fiscalizers get lots of media mileage but very little funds. This gets to be frustrating especially since they will be opposing an administration that has consistently earned high trust ratings. It’s very hard to criticize a President whose stewardship has led to new heights for the Philippine economy.

After issues concerning the Senate presidency and Speakership of the House have been resolved, our senators and congressmen shall sit and listen to the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Media will once again play its silly game of counting the number of times the audience clapped. This annual fashion show will have its hits and misses, with some lady legislators draped in jewelry and clothed in the finest Filipiniana gowns.

For the short-term, our incoming legislators would have to prepare for the budget deliberations, hearings on appointments to be deliberated upon by the Commission on Appointments, and committee hearings on a great number of bills and resolutions to be refiled and referred when Congress opens.

For us, ordinary mortals, we keep up with the myriad bills to be paid because our threshold of economic or financial pain is much lower than those we elected. We go on with our lives knowing that our electoral duties have been rendered in good faith and with hope for the future.

Soon, even the most stubborn campaign tarp in the barangay shall fade with time and weather changes. We take note of the slogans and promises. In a matter of days, none of the multi-million peso political ads shall matter.

Now, we sit back and let the winners outshine each other or worse, hide from the sunshine of transparency, political action, and intellectual discourse. Soon the power shifts back to the voters, meaning us, so the day of reckoning is but three short years away.

Congratulations to all the winners in the 2013 elections. Remember, we are watching you. (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter, www.twitter.com/susanople)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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