loud, live music from a show band blaring Poker Face in the north wing’s main activity area, people walking and lounging about in weird cowboy costumes, gift wrappers strewn on the floor beside over-flowing corner trash bins, pancit-lechon-sweet and sour sauce-barbeque whiffs in the air.
a scene from an over-crowded mall? hardly. welcome to the House of Representatives on its last regular working day before Christmas vacation.
by 4:00 in the afternoon, the show band had mercifully packed up, session was called to order in the main gallery, but in some space elsewhere within the HOR open grounds, a party was just about to start.
obscured from all the ruckus, our staff was busy conducting a press conference.
if there is anything i have found exasperating, and to a certain extent fascinating, in my daily dallies in Congress for the past eight months, it is how events in and around the sprawling HOR grounds can be completely oblivious to happenings in the 1) legislative arena, and, 2) the social-political-economic turn of events in general.
a few days ago, a day before the historic joint sessions, for instance, we were hard-pressed to get hold of the secretary general because said official was judging a dance contest in the parking lot with the speaker’s wife for the latter’s birthday celebration.
before that there was the insensitive staging of the HRep Idol singing contest while bodies were piling up in nearby Montalban at the wake of typhoon Ondoy. before that, at the height of rescue operations, the speaker was inaugurating the new HOR high-tech library, complete with the obligatory ribbon-cutting and, of course, a feast. and still before that, regardless of whatever may have transpired, instant work stoppage for a Pacquiao fight.
but frustrations and exasperation aside, i am proud to say that our office has thankfully somehow endured it all. mong’s latest blog post had me harboring a few neophyte reflections of my own.
our staff in HOR is made up of a mostly young crew. unlike other progressive party-lists before us, we had no experience whatsoever in legislative work and dove head on into the HOR with nothing but a firm-hold on our party’s principles and a strong confidence in our collective capabilities.
“nothing and diving head on” would pertain to:
- how we started out without a physical office and office equipment (thanks to the office of Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza for “adopting” us for a few months!). our present make-shift office was not available until a couple of months after mong took his oath. i still shake my head in awe of how we coped considering that the first few months, for us, were the most hectic — opening of classes, con-ass, SONA, numerous committee hearings, coordination with our regional chapters who were very excited for the first youth sectoral representative in Philippine Congress to come over and visit.
- how our joints would ache during the first few weeks from all the walking to and fro offices to settle administrative setting-up of office tasks, requests for equipment and meetings for briefings and orientation. i’m not complaining of the walking per se, but i blame the muscle pains on the bureaucracy. imagine brisk, long walks to an office only to finish your business there within seconds and then be pointed to another one in the next building just to secure a stupid stamp or signature. we suffered all the senseless walking at least five times a day everyday for at least the first three weeks. our ankles were swelling in protest by the time the first month was through.
- how we literally scrimped and begged for barongs. this, albeit trivial, i will always recount with a smile on my face. cong. mong, the street parliamentarian first and foremost, of course, did not have a stash of barongs in his closet. who would have thought that he’d be wearing barongs on a daily basis? heck, we didn’t even know then that only long-sleeved barongs were acceptable in the gallery! and so the whirlwind hunt for barongs commenced. an endearing secret: during the first few days, mong only had one long-sleeved barong. ask him how he managed to come to session in it without having to wash it on a daily basis.
- how we had to take the shortest and quickest of crash courses on “how a bill becomes a law,” among other things legislative-related.
later, with six House bills and 14 resolutions originally authored and hundreds more co-authored, our fair share of issues and campaigns made available to the media and the public, one historic win in a Supreme Court case, and countless cups of coffee consumed, i guess we could say that what we dubbed early on as our “OJT days” are officially over. of course our bills and resolutions will still have to take their course in the legislative process and our campaigns far from over but, all in all, 2009 has been a colorful and productive year for us, the neophytes.
our bills and measures will be playing a huge part in Kabataan’s advocacy-related campaigns for the 2010 elections. we rely more than anything else on the overwhelming support of our constituents and the youth movement in advocating their passage. i am especially partial to our BPO Workers’ Welfare and Protection Act of 2009, Anti ‘No Permit, No Exam’ Policy and Public Libraries bills. we hope to be able to do more in hopefully a fresh new term in the 15th Congress.
in the meantime, the 14th Congress goes on recess on friday, session resumes in January 2010. ###
read or download full text of Supreme Court decision on voter registration extension here.