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P23b for the new Senate building

Manila Standard

‘SURPRISED’ and ‘shocked’ were the words uttered by newly installed Senate President Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero before officials and staff of the upper chamber of Congress recently after discovering the ongoing construction of the institution’s new office in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig would cost a whopping P23 billion.

The original estimate? It was P8.9 billion, then later climbed to P13 billion.

Now, at the rate construction and other costs are piling up, it is estimated to reach an astronomical P23 billion, perhaps in keeping with the ultramodern and luxurious surroundings of BGC.

Escudero aptly described it in the vernacular: “Parang OA” or overacting.

“In my view, this leaves a bad taste in most people’s mouths, especially in the middle of an economic crisis and poverty that many of our countrymen see,” he said.

Hence, the Senate President wants to review the budget for the News Senate Building.

He has therefore directed Senator Alan Cayetano, head of the Senate committee on accounts, to suspend the payments and construction of the NSB pending a review.

Escudero clarified he was not saying there was any irregularity or anything questionable with the amount requested for the NSB’s construction: “It’s not questionable. I just find it excessive” to spend P23 billion for just one office.

Quite apart from the escalating cost of the new Senate building, other issues have been raised against it.

One, the contruction of the Senate building in a high-end commercial and residential enclave such as BGC reflects skewed priorities amid the urgent need to utilize scarce resources to boost the over-all economy through infrastructure development and the efficient delivery of vital social servuecs such as health and education to the poor and disadvantaged sectors.

Why build an expensive building complete with state-of-the-art facilities and furnishings instead of a modest one that’s adequate for 24 senators, officials and staff?

Two, why build a separate building for the Senate at all?

Why not build a structure that would accommodate both chambers of Congress to facilitate and enhance inter-chamber dialogue, consultation and cooperation, particularly when it comes to reconciling differing opinions on contentious political, economic and social issues and concerns?

Perhaps we need to remind our lawmakers their job is to craft laws that will lead to political stability, sustained economic growth and social concord.

Will a new Senate building costing P23 billion lead to better and more responsive laws?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

What is clear is that good laws emanate from sound and sober thinking and lucid analyses of challenges we face as a nation, not necessarily from a spanking new building that would cost taxpayers an arm and a leg.

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