Dela Rosa says he’s only a senator, not a statesman. That’s a world of difference.

March 4, 2020 - 2:39 PM
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Ronald Dela Rosa
Senator Bato dela Rosa when he was still a the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNA /AVITO C. DALAN)

Neophyte lawmaker Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa tried to manage expectations by saying he is only a senator, not a statesman.

Dela Rosa, former chief of the Philippine National Police, made this remark following the Senate hearing on filing a resolution to urge the Supreme Court to rule on the upper chamber’s role on the termination of an international treaty, in this case, the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

The termination of the VFA stemmed from the former top cop’s US visa cancelation, which is supposed to be a private matter, last January.

Twelve senators voted in favor of it while five—all close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte including Dela Rosa—abstained. Five others, meanwhile, were not present during the voting.

When asked about his vote, he argued that he is still not yet a statesman as what he claimed others want him to be.

“So ‘di naman ibig sabihin na porke I voted in abstention ay parochial mentality na ako, naging local politician na ako? Eh gusto daw nila para maging statesman ang dating mo, iba ‘yung paningin mo,” Dela Rosa said.

“Sorry, I am not a statesman, sorry hindi ako statesman. Ordinaryong senador lang ako; hindi pa ako statesman. ‘Yun lang ang makaya ko muna ngayon, ‘di pa ako statesman pa,” he added.

The hashtag #BatoResign trended again on local Twitter because of this remark. Most are saying that Dela Rosa did not seem to know what he was facing when he ran for the position.

“Then why the hell did you run for office? If your goal is to serve the president and not the Filipino people, then you are absolutely right. You are not, and will never be, a statesman,” one user said.

A foreign correspondent, meanwhile, implied that it appeared the electorate could not distinguish a lawmaker from a statesman.

“What’s an ordinary senator vs. a statesman? You can be a statesman without being a senator, but can one be a senator without being a statesman? Kung sa bagay, the electorate has spoken,” reporter Barnaby Lo tweeted.

Statesman vs politician

A popular quote from late US President Harry Truman is often used to distinguish a statesman from a politician:

“A statesman is a politician who’s been dead ten or 15 years.”

The definitions in online dictionaries are also quite similar with small nuances.

In Merriam-Webster, statesman means a person in politics and “a wise, skillful, and respected political leader.”

A politician, meanwhile, also engages in government. However, he or she is also “primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons.”

A study titled “Statesmanship Beyond the Modern State” noted that the concept of statesmanship is often associated with presidents or leaders who led nations in times of war.

For modern leaders, the opportunity of statesmanship is tested in dealing with political crisis situations.

The researchers quoted an explanation from a book titled “Statesmanship: Six Modern Illustrations of a Modified Ancient Ideal.”

“This art or activity [of statesmanship], then, is distinguished by its aim (achieving the general good in meeting a stream of contingencies), its scope (the major activities in the life of a people), and its means (political, i.e., a blend of persuasion and coercion within the framework of fundamental laws, reflecting prudent judgment).”

In Dela Rosa’s case, as a senator, his main responsibilities are to make laws, alter existing ones and repeal them.

Evaluating the treaties entered by the Philippine government is also among the other functions of senators, according to public administration professor Edna Co of the University of the Philippines

Since he won the midterm elections, Dela Rosa had been placed under public scrutiny given his supposed lack of knowledge in lawmaking. However, he is the only senator holding a doctorate degree that was not honorary.

He earned his reputation as the pioneer behind the deadly bloody drug war which killed thousands of Filipinos mostly from the urban poor.

Still a ‘fledgling’

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also joined Senators Miguel Zubiri and Panfilo Lacson in schooling Dela Rosa, describing him as a “fledgling senator.”

“Minsan kasi if you’re a fledgling senator, you need more time to get the ins and outs. Hindi nase-seminar ‘yun. Mas mabilis lang matutunan ‘yun kung galing ka sa local legislative body,” Sotto said.

The senate leader later expressed hope that Dela Rosa will learn from his mistakes.

“Later on, he will realize that being a senator is different from being just a follower of the administration,” Sotto said.

Critics noticed this and applauded him for finally doing his job.