Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa made online buzz anew after news outlets reported his sigh of relief when the hybrid plenary session was suspended at an early time on Tuesday.
“Sarap ng buhay! Sarap ng buhay! Ganito na lang tayo palagi ah!” the delighted senator said while his colleagues were virtually bidding goodbye to each other after the hybrid session.
Why was dela Rosa criticized?
Despite his expression of relief, Dela Rosa’s comment did not sit well on local online community.
Critics perceived Dela Rosa was “insensitive” for saying he is having a good life at a time when thousands of Filipinos lost their livelihood and lives due to COVID-19.
“What makes this so enraging is that Bato had the audacity to tease us with something we already know– na ang sarap ng buhay ng mga hintay-sweldo pero nganga sa trabaho. His stressing the shameful obvious more than paying attention to people’s silenced grievances is corruption,” a Twitter user said.
14,669 official COVID cases, 886 official deaths. Doubtless many, many more uncounted.
Thousands of businesses suffering.
Millions of people going hungry.
“SARAP NG BUHAY. GANITO LANG TAYO PALAGI HA.” https://t.co/ezgx03vOt8
— it’s more shuta in the philippines! (@mcmorco) May 26, 2020
Other Filipinos on Twitter and Reddit emphasized the senator’s privileges of job security and staying safe inside the comfort of his home.
Some online users said they are hopeful the senator’s case is the same for everyone.
“Eto yung hiling ng lahat ng tao ngayon lalo na may kinahaharap tayong crisis, na sana masarap din ang buhay nila. Dear sen. bato, sana ol MASARAP ANG BUHAY,” Twitter user Lois Bautista said.
“SANA ALL MASARAP ANG BUHAY EH NO SIR? Restless Frontliners can’t even go to their families battling this crisis Thousands have lost their income, some struggle and beg just to have something for their family to eat. And there you are, well-sheltered, well-fed, safe and sound…” another online user said.
'Ang sarap ng buhay. Ganito na lang tayo palagi ha.'
– Bato Dela Rosa (after a senate session)
It's so easy to say na 'sana ganito nalang tayo palagi' when you don't have to worry about losing your job & not being able to feed your family ano?
This man reeks of privilege.
— M A J 👑 (@Joannaaaabanana) May 26, 2020
Behind the ‘Sarap ng Buhay’ comment
When reporters asked Dela Rosa why he made such comment, the senator explained that he was just satisfied that the plenary session went smooth and swiftly using the videoconferencing software, WebEx.
“Kaya nasabi kong ang sarap nang buhay kasi mas mabilis ang talakayan ng bills kapag nakawebex kami at mas maaga matapos ang session. Sa tingin ko mas efficient ang session via WebEx basta maganda lang ang Wi-Fi signal ng attendees,” he said.
Last week, the Senate conducted seven-hour committee of the whole plenary sessions on the status of the national government’s COVID-19 response in the country from resource persons.
These hearings which ran for three days were also attended by high-ranking officials from the executive department and averaged to ran for up to five hours.
During Tuesday hybrid session, however, the lawmakers managed to tackle two measures—Senate Bill No. 1318 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 and Senate Bill No. 1541 which seeks to amend the school calendar and the session only lasted for almost two hours.
The Senate early May allowed conduct of plenary sessions and committee hearings through teleconferencing amid the battle against COVID-19.
Dela Rosa and his controversial remarks
Dela Rosa has already courted controversies even before he reached his one-year anniversary as a lawmaker.
Last January, his personal concern about his US visa cancellation turned into a national issue when President Rodrigo Duterte suddenly used this as a knee-jerk basis to terminate the long-term 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.
Senators have previously requested Duterte to reconsider his decision. However, the latter formally sent the request to end the international treaty last February.
In the same month, Dela Rosa stated that his vote regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal would depend on the president, whom he declared is his “bias,” and that the welfare of the Filipino public is more important than that of the company’s workforce.
ABS-CBN signed off the air on May 5 in compliance with state regulators’ cease-and-desist order after its legislative franchise lapsed.
Last March, Dela Rosa was also schooled by his colleagues during a Senate hearing after he argued that he is only a senator, not a statesman following his abstention during voting a resolution.
This resolution seeks 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.
Back when he was a PNP chief, Dela Rosa pioneered the Duterte administration’s notorious bloody drug war called “Oplan Tokhang” in 2016, which cost the lives of thousands of Filipinos, particularly those from the urban poor, and was also implicated in extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations.