I've had the rather dubious pleasure of having a ringside seat to quite a few of the Senate sessions dealing with the "double entry" issue raised by Senator Lacson a few weeks back. While I don't find that my proximity to the senators made me any more enlightened about the current controversy, the experience did serve to enlighten me as to how the Senate actually operates... and, well...
As I told my friends afterwards: the best argument for unicameralism is to watch the Senate at work.
While I admit I'm hardly an old hand at observing the "upper house," in my humble commoner mind, there are a few things I'd suggest to perhaps give taxpayers more bang for the bucks that finance our esteemed Senators:
(1) Do away with the singing/performance at the start of the session: I only witnessed this once, but I was told it was a common thing to invite, say, student choral groups, and have them do a rendition of the national anthem and perhaps one more song. While I'm all for culture in general, most of the Senators don't even listen - save the poor songbirds from the patronizing applause and shave a few minutes off the amount of time it takes to start the sessions by doing away with this please.
(2) Do away with the first reading: Yes this would probably require a constitutional amendment, but I really couldn't see the point. All that happens is that the title is read and the bill is referred to a committee which had already been decided on beforehand - its a purely ministerial task that shouldn't take up half an hour of the session. Send the bills straight to the committees then just bring them to the floor for the committee reports and interpellations.
(3) Do away with the privilege speeches: Not completely - just don't use up the sessions time on matters of "personal and collective privilege." Let's put aside for a moment the fact that some senators have a rather inflated sense of privilege, which results in them feeling "compelled" to speak about some thing or other at every available opportunity. The real source of the uselessness of privilege speeches made on the floor is that the target audience are not the senators (even in accusatory speeches like Lacson's) - it's the media, and the general public. In the first place, many senators don't even attend the speeches, and in the second place, they are unlikely to be swayed by whatever they hear. The real 'swaying' happens when the session is in recess, and the senators huddle together in little circles and do their private negotiations. Since the speeches are aimed at the media anyway, senators with something to say should just go directly to the media, and not waste the taxpayer money funding legislative sessions. 3/4s of the sessions I attended failed to address any substantial legislative business because of these speeches, and that's just unacceptable.
(4) Do away with insipid interpellations: One positive side effect of taking the privilege speeches out of the sessions would be the elimination of the incessant and frequently useless interpellations made by the other senators. While incisive questioning in the vein of a cross-examination does occur, these seem rare when compared to the number of times a Senator will stand up and spend twenty minutes praising the senator who made the speech and expressing his complete agreement with the latter. No wonder applauding is prohibited in the galleries - the Senators would get no praise from the audience that they don't already give to themselves.
(5) Do away with multi-tasking: I get that Senators are busy people, concerned with many urgent matters. yet their main job, their primary job, is LEGISLATION, and they really should not be allowed to treat sessions like high school students treat the classes of their favorite (i.e. most lenient) professor. For most of the session, even while someone is speaking, Senators are walking in and out of the hall, talking on their cell phones, joking around with the guests i the gallery or clowning around in their little cliques. I saw only two Senators consistently paying attention to what was going on (when they were there at least)... given that there are 24 Senators (well, with one being excused on account of, er, jail time) that is a pretty dismal average.
I don't know if any of my suggestions are feasible, or even if they would be as effective as I'd hope. As I said, I'm no veteran Senate watcher.
One thing I do know for sure however, is this: we need to demand more from our leaders. To paraphrase a pasty faced terrorist... We deserve a better class.