Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Garrulous Gordon outtalks everyone

FEATURE: Efren L. Danao Manila Times

SEN. Richard Gordon has a peculiar way of presiding over public hearings as chair of a Senate committee—he outtalks the dozen or so resource persons he invites to give their ideas on a pending piece of legislation. He may be outnumbered but definitely he is never outtalked.

A public hearing is normally called to gather a wide range of views on a particular topic. In the committees headed by Gordon, however, a public hearing serves merely as a forum for the resource persons to hear what he, Gordon, thinks about a pending measure.

This situation became evident again last Thursday when Gordon, as chair of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, held a public hearing on the bill that would review the laws creating the Bases Conversion Development Authority and economic zones.

Gordon invited to the hearings officers of the BCDA, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the Department of Trade, and other government agencies concerned with the inquiry.

Gordon, author of the bill and former chair of the SBMA, monopolized the hearing, which was supposed to generate a wide range of ideas and opinions about the subject at hand. What came out of the hearing was the dominant opinion of Gordon himself. When a resource person said something that did not coincide with his opinion, Gordon immediately cut him short and gave his own view. The resource persons, thus, became mere members of an audience to hear his views.

Gordon not only outtalks his more numerous resource persons—he also scolds them at the public hearings over which he presides. He did that at the hearings not only on the BCDA and SBMA but also on the high salaries of government corporate officials and of election-related measures as chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms.

“Pinagsasabon ni Gordon lahat ng mga bisita [Gordon scolded all of his resource persons],” a Senate reporter said when asked about the main achievement of the hearing last Thursday.

This was not expected, because early in his term Gordon said he would never browbeat any resource person.

“I was on the other side [as resource person] before, and I know how it feels to be browbeaten,” he once told The Manila Times.

This is not to say, however, that Gordon does not normally talk sense. He certainly does. He brims with many ideas and speaks about them with great enthusiasm. In fact, whenever the Senate has nothing on its agenda for the day, the majority leader would merely talk with Gordon and Gordon would come out with an instant privileged speech.

A senator, nevertheless, noticed limitations to Gordon’s sense of reasoning.

“He usually talks sense. But when he talks about the SBMA and former Chair Tong [Felicito] Payumo, he goes ballistic!” Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Flavier said

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