Serge on Miriam speech: Totally unparliamentary

MANILA, Philippines – “I want the Senate to come out and say, ‘Okay, enough is enough. You’ve gone too far.’”

Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III will literally stand against Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to strike the whole or parts of her scathing privilege speech and that of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile out of the Senate records. He said he will make the motion on Monday, December 9.

Calling Santiago’s speech “way out of line,” Osmeña said it is about time a member of the Senate puts a stop to the exchange of insults between the two on the Senate floor.

“That is totally unparliamentary, and that should not be accepted as part of the records of the Senate. Can we avoid it in the future? No. But at least, we can have a collective decision dito sa Senado na pwede ba na iyong mga ganito, huwag na nating payagan,” Osmeña told reporters on Thursday, December 5. (Please, let us no longer allow these things to happen.)

“That is not allowable under our Rules. That type of behavior, I find it very disconcerting and I am objecting to it,” he said.

Osmeña spoke a day after 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 pork barrel scam.

Osmeña also took to task Senate President Franklin Drilon for tolerating the catfight.

“Unfortunately, the Senate President allowed it to happen. I would have banged the gavel already if I was the Senate President, if I was the presiding officer at the time. I would say, ‘This is out of order.’ You have to do that so that the next one who will attempt to do that will be very careful because they will be declared out of order or any senator could have stood up and moved a point of order, ‘This is unparliamentary and I move to suspend the session.’”

Osmeña said he is not blaming Drilon for not intervening but he would have acted differently if he were the Senate chief. He also would not have allowed Santiago to speak facing away from the Senate rostrum. 

“I would have banged the gavel. I definitely would have banged the gavel if I was the presiding officer. I would not tolerate that sort of thing if I was presiding officer.”

Even if the speech was broadcast on TV, livestreamed on the Internet and posted on websites, Osmeña explained why it was important to remove it from the Senate records.

“Because 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?)

Asked what will happen if Santiago turns her ire on him for moving to strike out her speech, Osmeña retorted, “Eh ano? Lagi naman siyang galit eh.” (So what? She’s always angry anyway.)

Osmeña though said it was not offensive for Enrile to play Bejeweled on his tablet while Santiago was speaking.

“Senator Enrile is not obligated to listen to the tirade against him. There’s no rule that if I am attacking you, you have to listen to me.”

Osmeña has also been the target of Santiago’s wrath after he responded to her statement that the testimony of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles last November 7 would just be a circus.

“Every time she’s here, it’s always a circus anyway,” Osmeña said in October.

Drilon: I can’t stop them

Osmeña explained that the Senate has rules against offensive language, dating back to the Roman Senate and “the time of Jesus Christ.” He said almost the entire speech of Santiago was offensive and full of accusations without evidence.

“You’re not 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,” he said. 

“We have been very tolerant here in the Senate. That’s why these things come out and they get worse and worse as time goes by. We always point out, ‘You allowed so and so therefore you should allow me.’ That’s how it works,” Osmeña added.

Asked if he does not want his grandchildren to read Santiago’s speech, Osmeña said, “I don’t want anybody to read that. I don’t want anybody from America or Europe to read those things. Read the records in America, Europe, in sophisticated western democracies, they remove those things.”

Yet in an interview with radio DZRH, Drilon took a soft stand.

“It’s up to the senator or congressman. We call it privilege hour, ‘I rise to the question of personal and collective privilege.’ So I cannot stop what they will say because that is part of our parliamentary tradition that lawmakers have the freedom to express their thoughts, subject only to their own rules on what language should be used,” Drilon said.

Asked if he has plans to consult senators to impose stricter rules on privilege speeches, Drilon said that “times have changed.”

“Because of media exposure, and of the more important role played now by media, maybe the senators want more people to know what they think that’s why that happened. There are also movements against that but yesterday, nobody moved against anything.”

Drilon said Santiago’s decision to break tradition by facing away from the rostrum is “the least of my problems.”

“I am saddened by what happened. Maybe now that heads are cooling down, after a little while, the two can be prevailed upon to declare a ceasefire. Anyway, it’s Christmas, let’s be calm.”

Miriam to De Lima: Probe Enrile

On Thursday, Santiago formalized her request for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to probe Enrile for his alleged offenses. She wrote De Lima and sent her a copy of her speech, where she accused Enrile of “sins” including command responsibility for deaths and disappearances during Martial Law and running a gambling, illegal logging and smuggling “empire.”

“This is to respectfully appeal for you to order the [National Bureau of Investigation] to investigate Sen Juan Ponce Enrile for crimes under the Penal Code. In due course, the NBI report could indicate if further action should be taken against Enrile by other concerned agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights, Ombudsman, Pagcor, BIR, etc.”

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the incident showed the need for the Senate to craft a Code of Ethics to clearly define what is unparliamentary language.

Osmeña disagreed, saying the Senate rules were clear.

“The only good that I know would come out from this thing, it will call into focus the type of behavior that we will or will not tolerate in the future. And I am going to insist on that.” – Rappler.com