MANILA - Senate President Franklin Drilon is seeking a ''rebirth'' of the upper chamber following the controversy involving the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).
During the opening of the second regular session of 16th Congress, Drilon appealed to his fellow senators to work for the rebirth of the Senate and set aside the 2016 elections.
The Senate resumed session Monday sans Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and Senator Ramon ''Bong'' Revilla Jr. The three opposition senators are currently detained on plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Senator Miriam Santiago, who earlier revealed she has cancer of the lung, was also absent.
Drilon said despite the PDAF row that resulted in three senators being charged for plunder, the Senate remains a constitutional body that must be respected.
Drilon acknowledged that the PDAF issue has tainted the image of the Senate. He said the institution must use this as an opportunity to ''deconstruct our system, identify the flaws in our approach and remedy them with new practices that will inculcate a culture of public accountability."
Drilon also called on the senators to defend the institution from ''groundless and reckless assaults against its very dignity and integrity."
''We owe it to this chamber to combat falsehoods concocted by cowardly minds who spread their lies through proxy voices and pens; to speak up for the Senate even when it may seem to be more politically convenient and safer for us to be silent, to just wait for the tempest to pass,'' he said.
The Senate President also lamented that the Senate is not being recognized for abolishing the PDAF ahead of its declaration as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
''Nonetheless, what matters is that we took serious account of what the people said and clamored for. And we will continue to do so,'' he said.
Drilon said the Senate would prioritize legislation that would stimulate the economy and generate more jobs, promote fair competition in business, increase the take home pay of our workers, strengthen our campaign against graft and corruption and criminality, expand access to health and education, and protect our country's territorial sovereignty.
Like his Lower House counterpart, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Drilon said the Senate, in deliberating the 2015 national budget, will focus on spending on the right priorities.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law is also in the Senate's priority list. Drilon said he hopes Malacañang would soon transmit the proposed law to Congress as soon as possible.