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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Otso Diretso should become the Shadow Senate

"Their work is not over."

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The legislature of the United Kingdom, widely known as the Mother of Parliaments, has numerous features that are both unique and attractive. Undoubtedly one of the best—though not the best known—of these is the Shadow Cabinet system.

I thought of the Shadow Cabinet system in the wake of the apparent total defeat of the Otso Diretso senatorial team in last week’s election. The probable inclination of the eight Otso candidates in the face of their apparent electoral fate is to disband, go their separate ways and try to forget that the May 2019 election ever happened; that is perfectly natural. But such an inclination should be cast aside. Disbanding and going their separate ways is the wrong thing for the Otso candidates to do.

The Otso candidates’ job may seem to be over, but it’s not. They still have work to do. To be able to do it, they need to stay together. This brings me to the Shadow Cabinet system of Britain’s Parliament.

Under that system, the political party that is in Opposition—today it is Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn—puts together, from among its backbench members, a complete “Cabinet” that is ready to take over the reins of government in the event that the government of the day collapses upon a vote of no-confidence. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s government were to fall—a distinct possibility, given Brexit’s political fallout—Mr. Corbyn would have a full Cabinet ready to take over the governance of the United Kingdom.

In a British-style Shadow Cabinet there is a Shadow Foreign Secretary; he or she is the M.P. (Member of Parliament) who has the task of countering, or debating with, the incumbent Foreign Secretary on all issues relating to the conduct of Britain’s external relations. There is also a Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer—the counterpart of this country’s Secretary of Finance—who leads the charge against the financial policies and operations of the ruling party. And there is a Shadow Home Secretary—this country’s Secretary of Interior and Local Government—to take care of all local-government issues. As the baseball expression goes, all bases—defense, health, education, trade, etc.—are covered.

After last week’s apparent outcome, the Otso Diretso candidates should not just walk away, head bowed and with their tails between their legs. They should borrow Britain’s Shadow Cabinet idea and organize themselves into the Shadow Senate. To be sure, they—Erin Tañada, Chel Diokno, Pilo Hilbay, Gary Alejano, Romy Macalintan, Bam Aquino, Samira Gutoc and Mar Roxas—will not be able to do anything that will be recorded in the logbook of the Senate. But by letting their informed views be constantly known, in an organized way, to the Filipino people, the Magnificent Eight can make a substantive difference to the public discourse on issues of national significance. In so doing, they will strengthen and augment the position of the outnumbered—four out of 24—Opposition members of the Senate.

In a Shadow Cabinet, Erin can be the Secretary of Agriculture, Chel Diokno can be the Secretary of Justice, Gary can be the Secretary of National Defense, Pilo Hilbay can be the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Romy Macalintal can be the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Samira Gutoc can be the Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, Bam Aquino can be the Secretary of Education and Mar Roxas can be the Secretary of Finance or Trade and Industry.

Any questions that arise, within and outside the Senate, regarding the delivery of justice and the prosecution of public and private wrongdoing would be the business of Chel Diokno. The correctness and effectiveness of government policies toward the rice industry, the coconut levy and irrigation would be the domain of Erin Tañada. Issues relating to the K-to-12 program, SUC (state universities and colleges) funding and sufficiency of classrooms would be fielded by Bam Aquino, and matters relating to this country’s longstanding environmental problems will be the concern of Romy Macalintal. And so on.

No, the Otso Diretso candidates’ work is not over. Just because they apparently lost in last week’s election does not mean that they have become valueless and inconsequential. Not at all.

Welcome, Shadow Senators.

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