MANILA, Philippines – Is there a double standard in the Senate?
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago raised this question in reaction to some of her colleagues’ plan to move to strike her privilege speech against Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile off the Senate records.
“If, after the Enrile personal attack against me, certain senators had moved to strike off the record, I would not have delivered my own response. Why are they proposing the motion only now,” she said in a statement on Friday, December 6.
“Do they mean that Enrile is allowed to insult me on a personal level, but I am prohibited from paying him back in his own coin? If any of these senators were insulted personally, would each one have consented to remain silent?”
“Self-defense,” Santiago said, “is a basic human right, both in law and in morality.”
Santiago was responding to the statements of Senators Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III that they are considering moving to strike either the whole or parts of Santiago and Enrile’s privilege speeches off the Senate records.
On Wednesday, Santiago delivered a fiery privilege speech against Enrile, calling him a “psychopathic hypersexualized serial womanizer,” “the icon of shameless lying,” “incorrigible liar,” “the prince of darkness,” “gambling and smuggling king,” and “the drama king of corrupt politics.”
Santiago spoke in response to Enrile’s privilege speech last week where he called her an “inane, obsessive hater” and “the grandmamma of all falsehood fabricators” for naming him the mastermind of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
In her Friday statement, Santiago said striking her speech off the Senate records will not have a major impact.
“In the judiciary, when opposing counsel moves to strike off the record, and the judge grants the motion, the testimony will remain on the record. This procedure is followed, so that in case of appeal, the appellate court will be able to see from the record what the testimony was. Thus, striking off the records is nominal, because the testimony will stay,” said the former trial court judge.
Osmeña took exception to Santiago’s privilege speech, calling it totally unparliamentary in an interview Thursday.
“We don’t tolerate unparliamentary language. It has nothing to do with the issue that is being debated. So, kapag sinabi ko na, ‘anak ka ng pating,’ anong pakialam ng pating doon? None. It has nothing to do with it, so you want to keep to the fact. And you want to keep a dignified Senate.” (When I say, “son of a shark,” what does the shark have to do with it?)
“That is not allowable under our Rules. That type of behavior, I find it very disconcerting and I am objecting to it,” Osmeña added.
‘Let UP profs decide topic of Enrile debate’
Santiago reiterated her challenge to Enrile to face off with her in a public televized debate at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
In her speech, Santiago called on Enrile to agree to a debate about the plunder charge against him in the pork barrel scam. Enrile is among 38 individuals included in the first batch of the complaint for allegedly funneling his pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
“There should be a UP professor as moderator. The specific topic should be drawn up by a panel of UP professors,” Santiago said.
After Santiago’s speech, Enrile did not respond to the debate challenge and instead again mocked his fierce rival.
“She only confirmed everything that I said in my privilege speech regarding her mental health, regarding her propensity to make unfounded baseless accusations, regarding her propensity to use ad hominems, personal attacks, personal assaults against innocent people without any proof of iota of evidence to back her up,” Enrile said.
“Sad to say that she presented herself as my bad evidence to prove the points that I said in my privilege speech,” he added.
Their colleagues have called on the two senior senators to stop their catfight for the sake of the Senate’s image, already battered by the pork barrel scam.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada has said he plans to mediate between his mentor Enrile and Santiago but Senate President Franklin Drilon said he cannot stop the two from speaking their minds.
The two legal luminaries have had a long-running feud, which worsened during the debates on the reproductive health (RH) law last year and the Senate fund controversy in December 2012.
Back then, Santiago was peeved that Enrile chose to exclude her and other critics from receiving additional Maintenance and Other Operational Expenses (MOOE). Enrile was then Senate President.
In the RH debates, Santiago was a co-sponsor of the law while Enrile was among its staunchest critics.
Santiago had described their relationship as “ice-cold” but they have different explanations for the cause of their rivalry.
In his speech, Enrile said the root of Santiago’s “deep-seated animosity” was his opposition to her confirmation as agrarian reform secretary during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, and refusal to include her in the majority bloc when he was Senate President in 2008 and 2010.
In her speech, Santiago said Enrile is mad at her because the Supreme Court sided with her in a Martial Law case. Then a Quezon City trial court judge, Santiago ruled against Enrile’s order to arrest student protesters and the Court upheld her. – Rappler.com
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