Miriam walks out of Commission on Appointments hearing

Miriam walks out of Commission on Appointments hearing
(UPDATED) She adjourns the hearing less than an hour after it started, after a debate over rules on quorum

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago walked out of a hearing of the foreign affairs committee of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, September 10.

The CA hearing was for the appointment of ambassadors and foreign service officers.

Santiago, who chairs the CA foreign affairs committee, adjourned the hearing less than an hour after it started, after a debate over rules on quorum with another CA member, Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas.

Fariñas insisted that they had no quorum, and thus, could not recommend any of the nominees for plenary approval but Santiago insisted that she had been carrying out the same procedure, and was never questioned till then.

Under the rules, Fariñas said, a majority of the 18 members should be present.

She declined a suggestion by another committee member to suspend the hearing, so that the matter can be discussed among the members, and prepared to adjourn the hearing.

“You’re questioning my authority,” she told Fariñas. “I’m walking out of the meeting,” Santiago said, before adjourning the hearing.

Prior to the discussion on quorum, Santiago forced a television cameraman to leave the hearing room for alleged distracting behavior.

“Will you make him go outside and teach him manners, then let him come in [later],” Santiago told a Senate staffmember.


In an interview with reporters after the walkout, Santiago said she would have been more receptive to Fariñas had he discussed his concern at the start of the hearing, and not when it was already underway.

“There’s a difference of opinion on what is the legal procedure, and I resent being embarrassed in front of my own committee and in front of nominees who have come here in barong Tagalog,” she said.

The senator also noted that the hearing was originally scheduled for 10 am, but she had it moved to 11 am that same morning because of her condition. Santiago has lung cancer and has been under treatment since July.

She said that even with the new schedule, the members of the CA foreign affairs committee still did not arrive in time.

Santiago also said that it had been her practice to conduct the hearings in that manner, especially when the nominees involved have no opposition or derogatory record that would require extensive questioning, to speed up the process.

Ano pa hintayin mo (What are you waiting for)? Their majesties did not arrive on time? My goodness me. That’s  the problem with these people, especially those from the House. They are so legalistic. Law is made for man, not otherwise,” she said.

The senator also said she was expecting some kind of consideration from her fellow lawmakers because of her health condition.

‘What is a quorum?’

In a statement, Santiago further explained that she walked out because of the “intransigence and discourtesy shown to me by the House panel” of the CA foreign affairs committee.

She said that the CA rules describe the quorum at a public hearing as  “the presence of the chair; or vice-chair; or at least three members shall be sufficient for conducting public hearings, and acting on motions and other incidents.”

Santiago also cited the definition of quorum in Black’s Law Dictionary 9th edition 2009 as “the minimum number who must be present for a deliberative assembly to legally transact business.”

“Therefore, as committee chair, I am the quorum and possess the power to legally transact business,” she said.

She said she only learned during the hearing that the other House panel members were in Malacañang, witnessing the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic law to Congress leaders.

“If they were late, that was their privilege.  But I humbly submit that those representatives do not have a right to cause further delay on the nominations of some 50 nominees from the DFA.  The hearing was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., and yet at that very late hour, most of the House panel were still absent!” Santiago said. – Rappler.com

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