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Go’s ambitious legislative agenda

June 20, 2019

INCOMING senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has something to prove, in spite of easily winning a seat in the Senate last month. The legislative agenda he unveiled to the public this week will go a long way toward quieting those naysayers who still question his fitness for office, if only because of the size of the challenge he has imposed on himself.

Among Go’s priority bills he intends to file in the upcoming 18th Congress are measures to increase the salaries of public school teachers and civilian employees of the government; address the country’s severe shortage of affordable housing; create a permanent Department of Disaster Resilience; establish the so-called “Malasakit Centers” nationwide offering medical assistance to the poor; create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers; and programs to support the development of agriculture and sports, the improvement of fire protection and benefits for senior citizens, localized peace talks and barangay welfare.

The breadth of that list alone should be enough to convince Go’s detractors that he was more than just the President’s “special assistant” to conduct an unchallenged campaign for Senate for a couple of years. While Go’s agenda is generally aligned with that of the President, his priorities do differ in some key respects and represent a distinct political perspective.

The issue of salary increases for teachers and government employees, for example, is favored by the President, but has not really been made a critical priority for practical reasons. Relying heavily as he does on the expertise of his economic planning team, Duterte has been hesitant to push the salary increases until there is more clarity about how they will be funded. Go’s intentions to file bills mandating increased salaries will tend to force the issue. Likewise, providing more affordable housing is an idea the President supports in the abstract but has not addressed in a substantial way; Go’s advocacy will provide an opportunity for the government to devote more attention to it.

In some other matters Bong Go will, indeed, be filling the perceived role as an agent of the administration, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Duterte has favored the establishment of single departments to address OFW affairs and disaster resilience, but has until now lacked a strong ally in the legislature to put those particular wheels in motion. Even though he has enjoyed majority support in both houses of Congress, creating a Department of OFW Affairs and a Department of Disaster Resilience has taken a back seat to lawmakers’ other individual priorities.

While Bong Go’s enthusiasm and ambition is encouraging, we hope that he realizes he has set a high bar for himself. Being able to deliver on such an extensive list of goals will require a great deal of sustained effort and dedication, and his willingness to take on such a big job deserves some credit.

With the nature of Congress being what it is, Go’s success will be determined by how well he is able to work with his peers in the Senate, his counterparts in the House and his former colleagues in the administration. We are confident he has the ability to do so, but will judge his performance — as, indeed, the entire country should — based not on his credentials and connections, but on the outcomes of his performance as a public servant.

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