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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: On the immunization ordinance

FOLLOWING the approval of the amended ordinance on immunization for infants and children of Davao City today, I am happy to have proposed some amendments after the SP collegiate body has already ruled on its justness and legitimacy. In fact, the co-sponsorship I gave registered in today’s deliberation simply state a few facts. First of which is the obligation of every councilor to represent the voice of our constituency on issues that will stand to affect or benefit them, which includes concerns on public health and welfare.

When I sought the attention of Councilor Villafuerte for a meeting last September 21, I did not beg. Rather, I performed my duty as a legislator to contribute to the whole process of law making. I approached the proponent as it is a matter of basic courtesy. It was a sign of respect for a veteran and a colleague. My wish was not for her to accommodate me, but to eliminate the element of surprise if and when I file my motion for reconsideration on the grounds that I had exhaustedly stated
during the session last September 21.

To emphasize many of our colleagues’ reasoning, there is no harm in conducting more public consultations on an ordinance with wide-reaching implications. Major points were raised by crucial sectors composed of educators, parents, and even health practitioners – all Davao City constituents and not ‘my group’ as alleged by the good councilor. Let us be reminded that law-making is not a personal act. A law’s author or proponent is largely held accountable from the time it was proposed to its
implementation phase.

True, I co-sponsored said ordinance on 2nd Reading, which is why I am for refining its provisions, so it does not get vetoed or found legally wanting upon reaching the City Legal Office for review. Law-making is indeed a long process and, at the same time, a political act such that while we are expected to stand by our personal beliefs, the latter must always yield to the greater voice of the people we represent. I do not have a group, neither do I coddle one. I am merely trying, through a valid motion , to bring each and every voice in the SP halls, which is just and right. If, as a neophyte, I know this, I have no doubt that a veteran councilor such as Dr. Villafuerte knows this more.

Secondly, there was never any intention on my part, or on the part of the petitioners for that matter, to BLOCK the proposed ordinance. There were calls to DEFER, but I think we all understand that to defer is to momentary put on hold a certain legislation. This is to harmonize various views, to clarify, to discuss, to thresh out the ambiguous, and to balance competing interests. While I welcome the openness of Councilor Villafuerte to discuss the provisions anew, I do not welcome the suggestion that I propose amendments through a separate ordinance. Other than it being ostentatious and impractical, the
suggestion itself lends incredibility to the proposed ordinance. One of the essential elements of law is prospectivity— it should stand the test of time. So if we are encouraging amendments by crafting another ordinance instead of enhancing what we have proposed on hand, are we not actually saying that the law itself has not achieved its ultimate purpose?

Lastly, I am not a lawyer by profession though I also attended law school. Hence I do understand that a law is the result of a collective process by the legislators. More than a collective process, legislation is supposed to be the realization of the collective will and aspiration of most, if not all, of the people we represent. While none of us could claim monopoly or full knowledge of every law we pass, our people—the sector we represent must be able to claim ownership of such laws and the processes upon which laws are established. We should always give room for debate, encourage our constituents to participate in the process during committee hearings and consultations. Our openness for healthy discourse should not be construed as ‘blocking’ or ‘personalan’. Walay dapat bisan kinsa sa atoa ang mag-hunahuna nga siya ra ang naay monopolyo sa kaalam o pinakamaayong idea. The essence of democracy involves respecting the whole process, not circumventing it, or taking short-cuts. I have not been involved in any efforts to bash the ordinance’s proponent online, as alleged. I do not control the Facebook account of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao, where our sessions’ online feeds are shown. Anybody can post their comments in there and we should all respect what our constituents say of us, whether these are FOR or AGAINST us.

And to admit we are not all experts on a certain subject such as public health does not readily mean we cannot say our piece or contribute to the enhancement of a proposed law. We are all elected by the people of Davao City and if being a neophyte councilor does not sit well with some of the SP members in our august body, that is of their discernment.

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