Zubiri and the 600 bills
Former Senator Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri placed 12th in the 2007 Senatorial Elections (only to resign in August 2011 following the electoral fraud charges against the Arroyo Administration that allegedly benefitted him). Following the Senate reorganization installing Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate President in November 2008, Migz Zubiri was subsequently chosen as Senate Majority Floor Leader despite his being a first-term senator. Few expressed disappointment with his designation in view of his being new in the Senate and the pendency of a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal challenging his election. He served in such capacity until the end of the 14th Congress in June 2010.
In the 26 February 2013 episode of ANC’s Harapan 2013, Former Senator Zubiri claimed that he steered the Senate of the 14th Congress to pass “a record performance” of more than 600 bills which eventually were enacted into laws.
To establish his claims as facts, there are two questions that should be considered:
First: Was Migz Zuburi in a position to have “steered” the approval of such number of bills into law? and
Second: Are the numbers real and supported by hard evidence?
The majority floor leader is the second in command in the Senate. He is mainly responsible for the management of the legislative affairs of the upper chamber of Congress. While nothing in the Rules of the Senate expressly states the powers of the Majority Leader, he is, to a great extent, very influential in the passage of bills. The majority leader helps formulate, promote, negotiate and defend the majority’s legislative program, particularly on the floor. By tradition, the majority leader also serves as the chairman of the Committee on Rules. As Chairman of the rules committee at the same time, the majority leader has jurisdiction over all matters affecting the Rules of the Senate, the calendar, the order and manner of transacting business and the creation of committees.
As majority leader of the Senate and by the nature of his position, it is, therefore, not mystifying for Migz Zubiri to claim that he had steered the Senate to pass more than 600 bills into law.
But, does his claim of “more than 600 hundred bills passed into law” have sufficient basis?
The Statistical Data on Bills and Resolutions for the 14th Congress prepared by the Senate Legislative Bills and Index Service between July 23, 2007 and March 16, 2010 showed that a total of 821 Senate Bills and 696 House Bills were acted upon/passed by the Senate. Out of the total of 1,517 bills acted upon or passed by the Senate, 609 were enacted into law. Note, however, that the figures were only up to March 16, 2010; the 14th Congress ended on June 30, 2010. Between March 16, 2010 and June 30, 2010, a number of laws were, in fact, enacted. The Senate records showed that there were 647 laws signed for the entire 14th Congress – starting from Republic Act No. 9496 to Republic Act No. 10143. The last lapsed into law on June 30, 2010.
It, therefore, appears that Former Senator Zubiri’s claim has sufficient basis.
Nonetheless, does “steering” the work of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, a major consideration for electing a senator or a representative?
Steering the work of the Senate or the House of Representatives is a power that goes with the position of a majority leader. Whoever among the senators or the congressmen and congresswomen is appointed or elected to such position would be able to do the same work that Senator Zubiri was able to do during his time. To put premium to it would be tantamount to concluding that anyone who has performed the work of a majority leader should be re-elected. It bears stressing that the work of the majority leader should not be seen in isolation from the same “steering” that the Senate President or the Speaker of the House does. Being the head of each chamber, the Senate President and the Speaker, among others, preside over the sessions of its respective chamber; decide all points of order; and sign all measures passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, as the case may be. Their roles in the approval of bills are indispensable and go as well with their respective position. In the same vein, should they also be re-elected on the basis of having served as such?
The power of the majority leader should not likewise be disassociated or disconnected from the long and tedious legislative mill where various officials of Congress have crucial roles in passing a bill into a law. For instance, committee chairpersons have a crucial role in determining the priorities of a committee and in the approval of the committee report. These processes at the committee level are undertaken before a specific legislative proposal is even submitted and tabled for floor deliberations. It is in the latter that the majority floor leader takes full control, especially in preparing the calendar of the Senate and order of business on the floor.
To my mind, the actual principal authorship of a bill that eventually becomes a law is a more important gauge of performance; not even the one who has filed the most number of bills but has not passed anything into a law, or has not stood up and defended his/her proposal. Legislating is a difficult process where a member of Congress needs to be a little more conversant and articulate with his or her proposed legislation, and persistent and consistent in making sure that the proposal eventually becomes a law. Moreover, it is primordial that the bill that a senator or a representative has filed and becomes a law creates an impact on national development and liberates the population from poverty and adverse situations.
To his credit nevertheless, the Senate website says that Senator Migz Zubiri has principally authored or co-authored more than 20 laws in his entire legislative career. He has championed environmental issues and was credited for the passage of Republic Act No. 9513 or the ‘Renewable Energy Act of 2008’ and Republic Act No. 9367 or the ‘Biofuels Act of 2006’.
This Fact Check was submitted by Atty. Robert Larga. Atty. Larga is doing his doctoral studies in public administration at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG), UP Diliman, Quezon City. He was formerly connected with the Council for the Welfare of Children. This was submitted as part of his class requirements in a PA 208 (Philippine Administrative System) course.
Atty. Larga started his professional career at the Council for the Welfare of Children as Planning Officer. He served as Senior State Counsel at the Department of Justice. He worked for the International Labour Organization in its country office in Manila and regional office in Bangkok. His areas of exposure include human rights, especially of children, migrants and refugees; anti-human trafficking and all its aspects (prevention, protection of victims, investigation and prosecution, and reintegration); migration and its labour dimensions; forced labour; child labour; child abuse and exploitation; administrative law; and international law. He is proficient in program development and project management having handled national and regional projects.