Actor-turned-Senator-elect Robin Padilla was advised Thursday by incoming Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon to study hard on Philippine law and the Constitution.
This as Padilla was reportedly eyeing the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Laws, which is usually led by a lawyer.
Zubiri said he told Padilla: “You have to know the legal terminologies. You cannot simplify complicated legal terminologies, particularly on revising laws and the Constitution, especially if you are debating with constitutionalists or deans of the law schools of different colleges.”
The incumbent Senate Majority Leader, who has gained the support of most of his peers to become Senate President in the 19th Congress when it opens July 1, said Padilla should study constitutional amendments and revision of laws well.
“Remember, it also includes revision of laws, so laws that need to be revised and amended, especially those related to criminal law and other corporate law. These will all go through you,” said Zubiri.
Aside from constitutional amendments, Zubiri noted that revisions of existing laws are also part of the tasks of the committee, hence the need for it to be led by a lawyer.
Drilon noted that the post Padilla wants requires “legal knowledge” and the senator must have “exposure to the Constitution.
“Remember, it says Revision of Codes and Laws. This would refer to major laws like the Civil Code, the Revised Penal Code, and all the codified laws, and it’s not easy to do that. I don’t claim to know all of those, but certainly to a neophyte senator who has had no exposure to these subjects he needs a lot of schooling,” he said. “In fairness to the public who expects him to come up with policies insofar as not only the process of amending the Constitution but the
substance of the amendment, you must be able to debate with your colleagues so you can come up with a most reasonable policy,” explained Drilon, a former Justice secretary.
Zubiri, who has been Majority Leader under three Senate Presidents, related that Padilla – the top vote-getter among senators in the May 9 elections — wants the committee.
“So maybe our friend Senator Robin Padilla will show his best in that position, but I have to appeal to him and give him advice that he should study hard. You have to study hard,” he said, adding the neophyte senator should prepare well.
“And since nobody else wants to lead the committee, then he might actually end up being the chairperson. No other member of ours wishes to head the committee… therefore if that is really what he is advocating for, then he might shine in that position,” said Zubiri.
Despite asking for it, Zubiri said Padilla is not yet assured of the chairmanship of the committee, since the Senate plenary has still to vote for him. He emphasized that it is not automatic.
“So, if there are members who believe he is not fit for the position, then he won’t be elected. Remember that the position, including mine, is elected in the plenary. It has to be without objection. If there is an objection, we will divide the house and vote,” he explained.
Because of this, Zubiri said Padilla needs to woo all the members and convince them he is suitable for the position “because he will study hard.”
Earlier, Padilla announced that former Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo would be his legislative adviser.
He said Panelo – who also ran for senator but eventually withdrew — would be a huge help in his advocacy to push for a change in the 1987 Constitution. The actor has committed to a shift to a federal system of government.
Meanwhile, Drilon also exhorted other neophyte senators to study, stressing that getting elected “does not make one a senator.”
The three-time Senate President told the incoming lawmakers they must first earn the respect of their peers and second, the public.
Having spent 24 years total in the Senate, Drilon said there’s nothing wrong with studying and getting advice from experts in the field.
“In the Senate, you get confronted with issues in various fields, and therefore to be able to participate and contribute your share in policymaking, you must have a certain knowledge of what is the issue at hand,” he stated.