Press Release
May 23, 2008


Leaders of Congress have underscored the need for a better public understanding of the importance of foreign travels that lawmakers undertake as part of their legislative duties amid the media's propensity to label them as mere "junkets" - meaning pleasure trips at government's expense.

Senate President Manuel Villar and Speaker Prospero Nograles of the House of Representatives emphasized this point at the launching of the book, "Junketing: Senatorial Style," authored by Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. at the Senate-GSIS Building Thursday.

Villar and Nograles expressed the hope that the 278-page book will greatly help the public appreciate the value of foreign trips in broadening the horizons of legislators and in fostering friendship and mutual cooperation with their counterparts from various countries of the world in solving common problems that afflict humanity.

"There is always negative commentary whenever members of Congress go on official mission abroad. They are often criticized. But it is important for us to gather fresh ideas and learn from the experiences especially of other countries that are far more advanced than the Philippines. And I have no doubt that Pimentel's book will be of great help in correcting these misimpressions," Villar said at the book launching.

Nograles said that the book disproves the prevailing notion that overseas travels of members of Congress are just a waste of taxpayers' money while serving as a guide and inspiration to his legislative peers on how to maximize the beneficial use of these trips, expensive as they are, and how to inform the public on what they have done and achieved from these activities.

Nograles said Pimentel's book should have a counterpart in the House of Representatives and suggested the three most-travelled congressmen - former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. (Pangasinan), and Reps. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City) and Roque Ablan (Ilocos Norte) collaborate with each other in writing such literary piece.

The book is a compilation of the reports on 37 overseas journeys that Pimentel undertook as senator - mostly at the expense of the organizations or countries that invited him - from 2001 to 2007. He has taken the trouble of presenting a written report on every conference or mission abroad that he attended.

Foreign travels, Pimentel said, are part of a legislator's job. "It broadens his or her legislative horizons and makes the lawmaker less parochial. It is abused when the legislator concerned simply goes abroad and uses the occasion and conferences supposed to be attended as an excuse for going on a junket at the expense of the public till."

In one chapter of his book, Pimentel narrates that, as a member of the five-man Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), he and fellow committee members worked seven to eight hours a day or longer in a week-long sessions. "And if anyone thinks we do a junket, he should guess again."

Rep. Cuenco, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, said he has an allergy for the word "junket" because he has earned the "ugly label as number one junketeer in the House" for serving as the head of the House delegation in several conferences and assemblies abroad where Philippine participation is a must.

"Nene's book, 'Junketing: Senatorial Style,' gives us a lot of relief because it provides the public an insight into congressional travels abroad - its functions and influence on the life of the nation." Cuenco told the audience at the book launching.

The veteran Cebuano legislator proposed that the Senate and House adopt a joint resolution requiring all their members who go on official travel to submit, upon their return to the country, a comprehensive report about their activities and the results of their mission.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, guest-of-honor and speaker and a former senator himself, said "the book is sure to leave a great impression on those who will read it and is certain to demand a reexamination of the value of travel for the committed public official."

"As every page of Sen. Pimentel's book will show, a journey's value is measured by the objective of the traveler, whether for pleasure or relaxation or principally for duty. For Sen. Pimentel, every official trip affords an opportunity to learn new things about the world, to reexamine one's values and to renew one's beliefs that our world can change for the better," said Romulo whose frequent travels abroad that his job requires of him as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs are equal to none.

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