By Jun Ledesma

NO one is going to argue that the  Minority Floor Leader, Franklin Drilon, is a doyen in the Philippine Senate. He is an old hand, a guru in some respect and a legal luminary. I have always voted for him because I believed that with his knowledge and experience he can help craft and refine legislation whether he belongs to the majority or the minority.  

But there are legislative matters which Drilon oftentimes trivialized that sometimes I cannot help but wonder whether he has to speak to prove that his opinion matters and whether he is aware that being so legalese on simple issues he becomes an obstructionist fool.  

Take the case of the 13 local bills intended to increase the bed capacity of government hospitals and conversion of some into general hospitals. The bills were sponsored by Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go.

The approval of the bills and the eventual enactment into laws would substantially upgrade hospitals' capacity and personnel to effectively address the inadequacies of government health facilities. Any which way you look at it it is for the national good. 

The health measures actually underwent deliberations in the lower house and elevated to the Senate from where Sen. Bong Go took over. Drilon made dramatics over it and made it appear that the neophyte senator sat on it. He even assailed the Davao Senator for appealing to the emotion in his sponsorship speech.  

But of course. Bong Go, by upbringing and training in government service, is not honed in public debate and intellectualism in the mold of Drilon. Dabawenyos knew Bong up close. Patently reserved, unassuming despite his closeness to then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Unknown to many, this executive assistant is the Mayor’s data bank. He knows what his boss needs and he has everything ready whatever occasion the Mayor will attend to. Bong is the clearinghouse of all the Mayor’s domestic and international calls. He carries four mobile phones and each call in each phone he handles with dispatch. 

So you think it’s a simple clerical job. Far from it. Duterte would always repair to Bong for things he had done and what more are needed. And Bong knows what are the priorities which have to be addressed and who are the people that the Mayor has to meet. 

If you see the Senator these days going around the nooks and corners of the country it is simply by force of habit. Whenever calamities hit, he is among the first to respond. A jet ski enthusiast, he rescues flood-stranded victims in the middle of the night. He is among the first to rush to fire scenes and organize relief operations. When Mayor Duterte established “Lingap” to attend to the needs of indigent patients in Davao City, he made Bong Go in-charged. He knew Bong can deliver. Lingap became a health aid institution in Davao not a few indigent patients from neighboring provinces would later seek  Lingap and Bong for assistance.

Bong has a business degree from La Salle. It prepared him to either take up a job in the biggest printing press in Mindanao owned and operated by his grandparents or to help his own family in the construction business. But Duterte took him in while fresh from college and made him his Executive Assistant starting from his brief stint in Congress, an unwritten contract which lasted to date even as Bong is now Senator. 

If Drilon, the doyen, flaunts his mastery of the law and the rules of order in the Senate, Bong Go, the novice, would do his part quietly with no fanfare. His bill creating Malasakit Centers was patterned after “Lingap” only this time it has all the resources that cater to those in dire need of hospitalization. Malasakit Centers which now total to over a hundred are spread all over the country including Drilon’s turf. The centers are located in government hospitals and this is why Bong, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, wants those which lacked facilities to be upgraded.  

Let’s not forget that the Davao Senator was also chairman of the Sports Committee. One of his acid tests as a senator and a committee chair is the SEA Games in 2019. Again the doyen questioned the costs of the game's symbolic cauldron. Drilon’s posturing was however drowned not only because the Philippines became the overall champion but because the Olympic Committee grade of the sports venues and facilities were of Olympic standards. 

And here lies the difference between the doyen and the novice. We salute Drilon for his legal ascendancy we do the same to Bong for quietly bringing the government close to the people who have less in law and means in life. 

About the Columnist

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Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.