Abolish the Yellow (aka Blue) Ribbon Committee


As I argued in my column Friday, the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee, whose official name is the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, is a total misnomer. Especially under this Administration, its members haven’t been nonpartisan nor experts in what they are investigating, which the term “Blue Ribbon” means.

Rather, it has been a persecution and harassment weapon of President Aquino: We should, instead, name it the “Yellow Ribbon Committee,” after his insignia.

Maybe we should thank Aquino and his Liberal Party inner circle for abusing the authority of the Blue Ribbon Committee so much that it has become clearer how utterly flawed the very notion of such a committee is.

We are the only legislature in the world to have a “Blue Ribbon Committee” or a congressional body with the authority to investigate any alleged wrongdoing by a public official.

This is because of an important reason that is at the heart of the idea of republican democracy: It violates the separation of powers of the three branches of government.

No matter what the checks on a “Blue Ribbon Committee” are — in our case that its investigation should be “in aid of legislation” – such an entity appropriates for itself the powers of the two other branches of government, the executive branch whose duty is to investigate alleged crimes and the judiciary, which determines if an accused did commit a crime.

“Blue Ribbon Committees” then and now. Above, the “witchhunting” McCarthyist hearings in the US Senate in the 1950s; below, the Binay investigations.

“Blue Ribbon Committees” then and now. Above, the “witchhunting” McCarthyist hearings in the US Senate in the 1950s; below, the Binay investigations.

In more concrete terms, the Blue Ribbon Committee quite obviously expropriates the power of the Ombudsman, a constitutional body, and the Sandiganbayan, a court of the judicial branch of government.

Civilization has developed through centuries a gargantuan body of procedures and regulations governing how an alleged crime is investigated and proven, to avoid humanity’s vulnerability to emotions, especially vengeance and mob rule. This is called our system of laws and regulations that include, for instance, such things as Rules of Court, rules of evidence, court procedures. There is such a thing as jurisprudence, so every court decision is consistent with the laws as these have been applied in the past.

Our system even limits those who can participate in judicial proceedings to a particular professional – required to have a certain post-collegiate education and to pass a particular exam called the bar – we call the “lawyer.” There is a system of appeal, which stops thought at the Supreme Court.

In the blue, aka yellow, ribbon committee’s hearings, any jerk, as long as he is a senator, can even be at the forefront of such investigations, such as the former mutineer Antonio Trillanes 3rd, who has shown his utter ignorance of the law, or even Alan Cayetano, who should be sent back to law school for his claim that a TV interview with an alleged landowner is more important that the registered owner.

There is no such body of knowledge governing investigations by a committee of the legislative branch. Hence, here you see a Cayetano bullying a witness or a Trillanes putting words in witnesses’ mouths. This former mutineer even so crassly threatens “resource persons,” for example, when he barked at the contractors of he Makati Building that he would ask the DPWH to blacklist it from any public contracts.

Things such as PowerPoint presentations annotated with biased words like “overprice” and videos of “Hacienda Binay” are presented in the “Court” without giving the accused the right – as he would have in a real court – to even block such presentations if these are not shown to him beforehand (or his lawyer) so he could question first its authenticity.

I cannot understand why we are treated as fools whenever the Yellow Ribbon undertakes an investigation it claims is in “aid of legislation.” No one really believes that, and no Yellow Ribbon investigation has so far resulted in any bill. Why do we, as a nation, imbibe such a lie concocted by the Senate?

The McCarthyist Era
The US Congress had its own episode of mob frenzy when it succumbed to such investigating committees, a blue-ribbon kind of committee in the 1950s: the House Committee on Un-American Activities and its Senate counterpart, Permanent Committee on Investigations, led by the infamous head Joseph McCarthy.

These undertook witch-hunts against suspected Nazi and communist sympathizers that even led to suicides – just like former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes did – of several people being investigated. The two committees investigated even Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and 300 other artists.

After that horrific episode, which historians have labeled as the irrational McCarthyist era, the US Congress had made it a point to make such investigative bodies ad hoc, or temporary ones consisting of people with indisputable integrity, expertise in the field, and nonpartisan.

Our Supreme Court, relying on decisions by its US counterpart during the McCarthyist era in general, has in fact, generally frowned on investigations by the “Blue Ribbon Committee.”

It is quite interesting that the first Supreme Court ruling against the Blue Ribbon Committee was made in favor of President Aquino’s uncle, Manuel Lopa, in 1991. In its decision, the Court barred certain witnesses from being compelled by the Committee headed by Senator Wigberto Tanada to testify in its investigations on allegations  that Lopa, right after Marcos’ fall, had illegally acquired 36 firms of the dictator’s brother-in-law, Benjamin Romualdez.

The allegations were made by then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who, like Trillanes in the case of Binay, probably merely wanted to undertake a demolition job, in his case against President Cory, rather than establishing the truth.

The Court exposed the fact that the committee wasn’t really undertaking the hearings “in aid of legislation” but was trying to investigate an alleged crime – which it did not have the authority to do so under the Constitution.

Supreme Court ruling
The Court (in G.R. No. 89914) invoked a US Supreme Court ruling against the US House’s Committee on Un-American Activities:

“The power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad… But broad as is this power of inquiry, it is not unlimited. There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress… Nor is the Congress a law enforcement or trial agency. These are functions of the executive and judicial departments of government. No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to and in furtherance of a legitimate task of Congress. Investigations conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to “punish” those investigated are indefensible.” (Emphasis supplied)

But of course, the Yellow Ribbon investigation is not really a probe into an alleged crime, nor to gather data for drafting a bill. It is totally a demolition job via the media, to throw dirt on the front-runner in the 2016 elections.

Based on the decision of that Lopa case, Binay is on solid legal footing to refuse to participate in the Yellow Ribbon hearing. The Court noted that the allegations against Lopa being investigated by the Committee were the same subject of a case already filed in the Sandiganbayan.

The Court therefore ruled:

“In fine, for the respondent Committee to probe and inquire into the same justiciable controversy already before the Sandiganbayan, would be an encroachment into the exclusive domain of judicial jurisdiction that had much earlier set in. In Baremblatt vs United States, 21 it was held that:

‘Broad as it is, the power is not, however, without limitations. Since Congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate, it cannot inquire into matters that are within the exclusive province of one of the other branches of the government. Lacking the judicial power given to the Judiciary, it cannot inquire into matters that are exclusively the concern of the Judiciary.'”

The same people who were the Yellow Ribbon Committee’s witnesses already had filed a case against Binay, involving the same allegations with the Ombudsman July 22. What the Yellow Ribbon Committee is investigating has become, as the Constitution provides, the province of the Ombudsman, and later the Sandiganbayan.

But beyond these legal technicalities is the basic question: Why do we allow the Senate’s platform to be used for a demolition job, and we, the citizens, are even paying for it, Aquino’s propaganda weapon?

FB: Rigoberto Tiglao


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. Thanks sir tiglao! For such will search information… Keep sharing your knowledge, in your point of view…as an editor in chief for such a reputable institution in written media…more power to all of you!

  2. >>> For anyone who wanted to know something about “YELLOW LEADER”, they could learn by reading a book entitled ” Mao Tsetung or Mao Chedung Thought”.

  3. >>> Mr. Jose M. Sison (JOMA) should share his knowledge about the differences of: 1) Feudalism?, 2) Capitalism?, 3) Socialism?, 4) Communism?
    And what danger advocacy the YELLOW LEADER had compare to the RED LEADER or PEASANT LEADER?

    >>> Where is Mr. Joma now? Is he really in a Communist Party which is presently in the Netherland or he had changed his advocacy of being real communist for the welfare of the people like farmers and peasants in the Philippines.?

  4. Senate and judiciary have different power and mandate. I believe that senate probe is proper and constitutional. Senate has exposed a lot of issues pertaining to Corruption way back Ramos’ presidency. Senate hearing is the people’s court as for the ombudsman,it is created to convict public officials.

  5. DanielM. Pascua on

    Thanks Mr. Tiglao for your very informative and enlightening article about the blue ribbon committee. Please continue to write and expose the evils being done by these senators, making our country a laughing stock by the world. Our support is backing you up! More power!

  6. i think aquino administration is worst that marcos. marcos used martial law, but he gave his opponents chances, unlike aquino, pretending to be democratic yet he used yellow ribbon, doj, bir and other government agencies to harass his opponents, businessmen and even private persons. he and other close to him are becoming more dangerous everyday if not stop.

  7. like what they say, an empty can makes too much noice. that best describes trillanes, cayetano and pimentel. the blue ribbon’s three musketeers tied with a yellow ribbon around their heads.

  8. Members of the yellow ribbon committee are the ones who does not know their laws. They continue to investigate VP Binay on the same charges that had already been filed in court (Ombudsman). Whether our court move fast or slow on the case, it is not a reason for yellow ribbon committee to disregard the law and continue its investigation. We have to remember, their investigation is in aid of legislation not to find the accuse as guilty. It is not for them to make that call.

  9. If you think those Senators are “FOOLS”, What do you think those persons who are creating confusions and utter lies?

  10. Pimentel, Cayetano, Trillanes are all neophytes. They always create a noise in the Senate. Our grandparents told us when we’re still young, that if a man talks too much, that defines his character. If a man talk less, he has deep wisdom. The ways Pimentel, Cayetano, Trillanes project themselves as clean investigators (in aid of legislation ‘Kuno!”, how they have acted in the proceedings has been unbecoming of a lawmaker. Koko and Peter are far-behind the shadows of the fathers.

  11. Vicente Penetrante on

    You’ll be needing, according to Senator Teofisto Guingona, a “slum dunk evidence” (aka argument) in order to abolish the Yellow Ribbon Committee.

  12. It is better to abolish the senate,
    It doesn’t perform its duty of legislation, it is like they’re in the
    business of Publicity, PR and Advertising. We can save billions
    if they’re to be abolished.

  13. ” Why do we allow the Senate’s platform to be used for a demolition job . . .?” Because there is no assurance that Binay will be demolished in court. Since 1988, two years after he took over in Makati corruption charges have been filed against him. Up to now. The cases did not prosper because, according to Marites Vitug’s investigative report in. Rappler, of “payoffs, weak prosecution”. Binay has plenty of money and Philippine justice is for sale.

    If the courts cannot demolish Binay and put him in jail, let’s have the Senate do it and demolish Binay’s ambitions. Maybe another good may come out with legislation against dummies.

  14. I am glad that my earlier (and humble) opinion that Cayetano is the 3rd world version of Joseph McCarthy is sort of validated. Now to see him end his political career the same way Mr. McCarthy did will be sweet, sweet karma…

    • sir i agree the 3 itlog are nothing but only to show their ignorance of law imagine 2 lawyers and one clerk from PMA what kind of people are they they contineuosly perform ilegal works which from the start knows it is the power of the Ombusman and sandigaan to the this what a shame nakakahiya kayo 3 itlog

  15. Truth will set us all free. That’s the ultimate goal. No value of money can compensate of what is the truth. The country I think is the beneficiary of the senate probe for it helps us to determine what kind of a person we are going to elect come 2016.

  16. Of course, pimentel, cayetano and trillanes are fools. They appear to constitute the core of the Band of Fools. We have now in our midst a Band of Fools and a Band of Thieves.

  17. Repeatedly stating in a threatening manner to a resource person that ” you are on a short leash”……….

    is overly unstatesmanlike, dictatorial and amplifies a BULLY ! Also bullying a
    gate guard in Batangas – petty and crass.

  18. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    It’s a shame that we have senators like the three ‘blind mice’ who are attack dogs of the “yellow ribbon bearer”, instead of the Philippine flag pin. The yellow ribbon is a family and not the national symbol.This alone, tells us who this sitting president is representing.

    The country needs leaders who are confident of themselves, more mature and do not have to “showboat” to get attention from the media.Good deeds like those of stateman caliber will seep through. Conversely, shallow and purely political deeds will bring down these senators into oblivion as “tutas”.

    However, VP Binay should clear his name; it’s not enough for him to be whining and just claim politics. It is imperative that he can prove his accusers are wrong. This is the best campaign issue he will ever have should he run in 2016. With this, he will also earn the respect of other leaders of the world should he run and win. Otherwise, he will just be looked down as one of those corrupt Philippine leaders.

  19. I totally agree. I do not want to spend one peso more on the Senate Yellow Ribbon Committee, also known as the Senate’s 3 person kangaroo court. Abolish it.

  20. opinion reader on

    Kudos to you Mr. Tiglao, indeed , another column that provides information na makakatulong sa mga taong hindi masyado marunong sa proseso ng batas!. Nung bata ako paborito ko ang three stoogies, marahil yung tatlong senador na ito eh paborito rin ang three stoogies kaya ayun, sila ngayon ang gumaganap dun sa senado na halos mas mahaba ang air time unlike yung original na three stoogies na around 30 mins lang. Dapat na nga itigila ng pag papalabas ng three stoogies enate version, syang lang ang pera na nagugugol para dito. I case has already been filed sa office of the ombudsman, why not these three stooges senators wait dun sa resulta ng imbestigasyon ng ombudsman and from there dun sila kumuha ng information in para makatulong sila sa balak nilang gawing batas, sa tingin ko mas marami sila makukuha na information in aide of legislation dun sa mga nagawa ng ombudsman. Puro dada lang ng dada mga sendor at mga anti-binay sa senado, na hanggang ngayon eh sabi nga nila eh “hearsay” lang daw. Di naman ako maka Binay, pero parng gusto ko subukan si VP Binay na presidente. eh for sure naman, sa mga naging at kasalukuyang pplitiko, lahat naman eh may bahid ng dungis, ika nag dun na tayo sa kurap na subok na at nag tatrabaho…

  21. mr tiglao, the yellow ribbon committee is designed to whet the appetite of telenovela appetites of the filipinos. this has been proven again and again like in the inquisition of the late angelo reyes by estrada and trillanes and many more and the latest is the binay inquisition. as mentioned in news reports 79% want binay to face the yellow ribbon com. proving that the filipinos want the telenovela,

  22. Jose A. Oliveros on

    I like this phrase because it aptly describes the Yellow Ribbon Subcommittee composed of the three stooges- Pimentel, Cayetano and Trillones:” any jerk, as long as he is a senator, can even be at the forefront of such investigations”.

  23. Sonny Dela Cruz on

    That is why I recommend to shut-down the government and let the military takes over and establish a junta government like in Thailand, then re-write the Philippine constitution into a Federal system of government, so that the independence of the three branch of government is more protected by law. The Governor of the region should be given the responsibility to develop and create jobs, feed the hungry, medical for the seniors and the poor and give free education from kindergarden to high school students. The Unicameral government is not working since the Philippines got her independence from the United States, it is becoming worse because of the abuse of power by the politician. It is time to stop this none sense and let the country move forward to compete with the Asian neighbors..The country is being left behind.

    • Shutting down the goverment & military takeover & re-writing the Constitution?

      Are you out of your freaking mind? Do you know what it takes to re-write the constitution while the military is running the show?

      Have you ever heard of some guys named Ferdinand Marcos, Johnny Enrile or Fabian Ver?

      What we need are educated voters who elects the right person for the job and not electing the same people or dynasty every election cycle.

      With the voting ratio of 90% vs 10% meaning 90% of the voters are as dumb as a doorknob and always sleeping at the noodle house (natutulog sa pancitan) that keeps electing the same politicians and only 10% elects the right people to run the country, we as a nation is doom to repeat the same goddamn mistakes of the past.

      Unless the pendulm swings to the 90% educated & only 10% dumb> we’ll always be in deep kaka…patay kang bata ka…

    • Sonny Dela Cruz on

      Thank you Patel, now you are getting my point. The Filipino adults in the Philippines are as you said 90% are tainted with corruption, doing nothing to help build a better Philippines. It is now the time to invest with the people to mold them to be a better citizen. First, the system of government has to be change, provide the services that the people needs and then through education we will start molding the children to be responsible and develop their citizenship meaning to be aware of the government and elect better leaders. Adults cannot be molded to be a good citizen. They are mostly tainted with bad elements. We’ll start molding the children to be a better persons when they grow-up.

  24. I thank you, Mr. R. Tiglao, for your most enlightening and very thorough explanation about the “Yellow Ribbon Committee” if it could be called that. I am becoming even more convinced now that our Senate has really turned out to be one grand stage of fools, a despicable “moro-moro” theatre. Of course, in the midst of fools, one at least stands out and could be relied on even though he is a “Joker”. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is blowing mightily through your pen, Mr. Tiglao. Thanks be to God.

  25. redentor pajara on

    Very well said Mr. Tiglao, Why not abolish the whole senate… they are just there to take tax payers money to put all in shams. The sham investigation of the yellow ribbon, sham impeachment trial and many more shams which are all waste of taxpayers money.

  26. Roldan Guerrero on

    If the information I got is accurate, Sen. Coco Pimentel is a BAR Top notcher, and Sen. Cayetano took the Bar exams twice to pass the licensure exams, while Sen. Trillanes, a non- lawyer, a former Navy Junior Officer who became famous because of committing mutiny against the Republic. With the way they are conducting investigations on the alleged illegal activities committed by VP Binay, I am not convinced Coco Pimentel is a true Bar Top notcher, he must have surely paid a voluminous amount to be declared as top notcher, which is possible because his father was by then also a Senator receiving 200M annual Pork Barrel(the old Pimentel was implicated in the Napolist). These two lawyers, Pimentel and Cayetano should better go back to college and repeat law studies while Trillanes the mutineer should go back to jail and serve his sentence.

    • Your description of these fools who unfortunately happen to be senators is accurate portrayal of who they really are-“FOOLS”.

    • Koko Pimentel also took the Bar exam twice, failed in the first take and top in the Bar exam for the second time.

    • and as for trillanes, he claims antonio tiu as a dummy of vp binay. and what about him? isn’t he a dummy of pnoy? afterall, it was pnoy who granted him amnesty, right? so in some ways, he is just paying back pnoy for that favor. of being granted amnesty that is.