What makes a good Senator? Tips from an old Senate hand turned UP prof

| Written by KIM G Quilinguing

Video by the UP Media and Public Relations Office


With the Commission on Elections finally declaring the winners of the recent senatorial elections, it is apparent that some of those who made it are new to the legislature. And with much to learn about the duties and responsibilities of members of the chamber, these senators-elect may need all the tips and help they can get.

For Assistant Professor Jean Encinas-Franco of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Department of Political Science, it is important to acquire and develop traits useful when they assume their responsibilities in the Senate.

One of these, she said, is the ability to communicate well. “The Senate is a deliberative body, so it needs people who are able to talk and articulate issues of the day,” she said. Their ability to have legislation passed hinges on their capacity to explain their stand and concerns in public debates.

Knowledge of and experience in government bureaucracy would also come in handy, she said, since it would be very difficult if the new legislators would be working with little or no knowledge on how the public sector works.

A 15-year veteran of the Senate, Franco spent four years working in the office of Senator Freddie Webb, and 11 years in the Senate Economic and Planning Office, where she attained the rank of Director III. She later moved to the academe as a lecturer in the Miriam College International Studies Department and as a faculty associate of their Women and Gender Institute. She later joined UP Diliman, where she now teaches.


Portrait of Dr. Jean Encinas-Franco, UP Media and Public Relations file photo


Professor Franco specializes in gender and the politics of labor, legislative politics, women’s rights and international migration. She teaches Philippine Politics and Government, Political Analysis, Research in Political Science, and Theories in International Relations in UP Diliman. She earned her Communication Research degree from the UP Diliman College of Mass Communication (CMC) in 1990. Later on, she would earn her Master in Public Administration degree from the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) in 1997 and her doctorate in Political Science from the UP Diliman College of Social Science and Philosophy (CSSP) in 2011.

Outside the classroom, Franco has also been involved with several research projects on the struggles of overseas Filipino workers, including nurses hired by agencies in the United Kingdom, India and locally. She has also been actively involved in the University’s UP sa Halalan election initiative since 2013, spearheading the project in 2016. She is among the University’s go-to analysts for news organizations, programs and other platforms where analyses of current issues require her perspective.

Adding to communication skills and knowledge of and experience in government, Franco said senators should never cease to learn about various issues which confront the nation, “particularly, because the world is fast changing, and we need to align our legislation, our legal and political environment, so that we help Filipinos respond to these massive changes in the world today.”

Franco said new senators must also learn to navigate the Senate floor very well. “Even if you know your law, even if you are articulate, if you do not know how to play good politics, then it would be very difficult for you to have other senators agree to your proposals.” Good relations with fellow senators is very important for new legislators who want to see their proposals or pet bills through, she said.

The 12 candidates who made it are re-electionists Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Koko Pimentel and Nancy Binay; returning senators Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla; and the Senate newbies — former Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Bong Go; former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa; former Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos; and former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino.

Go, dela Rosa, Pimentel and Tolentino ran under the administration’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) ticket; Villar, Cayetano and Marcos ran under the Nacionalista Party (NP). Angara ran under the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) party; Lapid ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC); Revilla ran under the Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD); Binay ran under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA); and Poe ran as an independent candidate.

Newly-elected senators and congressmen who wish to acquire relevant skills and knowledge before they officially begin work as legislators can undergo training in NCPAG, where Franco is an alumna of its MPA program. Then rookie Senator Nancy Binay and first-time congresswoman Sol Aragones of Laguna were in the roster of training participants of NCPAG.