Miriam, JPE censured

Three senators move to erase records of ‘shameful bickering’

THREE senators are studying the possibility of purging from the records of the Senate the privilege speeches of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who engaged in “shameful bickering” that was unparliamentary.

Exorcism? Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago makes the sign of the cross with her fingers and points it at Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday, the day she demonized him in a privilege speech in retaliation for a similar speech that Enrile delivered last week attacking her. Lino Santos
“We are studying and reviewing them and will decide by Monday,” said Senator Vicente Sotto III in a text message to reporters.

“You can craft it (speech) in such a way [that] you can deliver the message you want to say without using unparliamentary words,” Sotto added.

In a radio interview, Sotto said he was not taking the issue personally, but was merely looking after the image of the Senate.

He said scholars in the future will look at the records and journals of the Senate and see those words.

“That’s the problem,” said the opposition senator.

This was also the same view expressed by Senator Francis Escudero, who noted that it would be bad for our people who will read the records of the Senate “10 or 20 years down the road,” and see words like “gago” (stupid) and other gutter language.

“That’s not good,” said Escudero in an interview over Channel 2’s ANC cable news channel.

He supported a move by Senator Sergio Osmena III to review the records of the Senate and find out which words were unparliamentary and should be stricken from the records.

Escudero said the entire speech need not be removed, only the “unparliamentary portions.”

Escudero also said senators can be subjected to disciplinary proceedings before the committee on ethics, but the panel has not yet been organized.

Penalties can range anywhere from a reprimand to suspension to expulsion.

A two-thirds vote or 16 senators must support suspension or expulsion before the sanction can be imposed.

Osmena, who was himself once the target of Santiago’s tirades, said almost all of her speeches were offensive because she used them to attack people on a personal level.

“You are no supposed to attack somebody personally. If she wants, she can do it outside the Senate. The Senate has to deal with matters of national interest, not personal [matters],” he said.

Osmena said he would move for the removal of part or all of Santiago’s speech, as well as Enrile’s address, on Monday.

He also said Santiago’s actions of pointing fingers was offensive.

In an interview over Channel 7’s “News To Go,” Sotto vowed to ask the Senate majority for the immediate formation of the Senate committee on ethics to look into any violation against parliamentary rules in the speeches of Santiago and Enrile.

“What I want to happen here is to refer the speech of Senator Santiago to the committee on ethics. That is also my suggestion for the speech of Senator Enrile. But the problem is, we have not yet organized this committee,” said Sotto.

The Rules of the Senate provide that “acts and languages which offend a senator or any public institution shall be deemed unparliamentary. The rules prohibit senators from using such language against his or her colleague.

The rules also state that a senator using unparliamentary language may be called to order by fellow senators, and may even be the subject of an ethics case.

However, these rules are not clear about the mechanics on how to strike out specific unparliamentary words uttered by a senator on the Senate floor.

Sotto said the word war between Enrile and Santiago could hurt the Senate’s image.

Another minority bloc member, Senator JV Ejercito said the word war would hamper efforts to rebuild the image of the Senate, which is still reeling from the pork barrel scandal.

“We are in the process of rebuilding the image and cleaning the image, so any conflict like this will definitely have a negative effect,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon seemed reluctant to get between Enrile and Santiago, replying “No comment” when asked if he would try to get the two to reconcile.

In an interview on radio dzRH, Drilon said he was saddened by the “shameful bickering” between the two senators, but would not step in right away because the priority was to help victims of the recent super typhoon.

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