Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago will ignore her myriad ailments to lash back at her “ninong,” Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, in today’s session. As I had written in my previous column, an interpellation by JPE after his privileged speech could produce fireworks previously unseen and unheard. No quarters will be asked and no quarters will be given in this encounter between two grizzled lawmakers.
In the dying days of the 15th Congress, then Sen. Ping Lacson was waiting for Senator Miriam to attend a session so he could confront her over her use of her Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. Unfortunately for Lacson, Miriam got sick again with her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She also cited other ailments like hypertension and hypothyroidism as reason why she couldn’t attend sessions. Today’s session will mark the first time in the 16th Congress that she’ll do so.
Oh yes, here’s a clarification on her threat to shoot herself in the head right at the Senate session hall. She said she would do so if it could be proved that she constituted “clear and present danger” in charging that there was an assassination plot against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Nobody proved it so no blood was shed on the Senate floor.
Speaking of blood, I find Senator Miriam’s remarks on the “overreaction” of some lawmakers to the bombing at the Batasan that killed Rep. Wahab Akbar of Basilan intriguing. She particularly lashed at those who were claiming that there was already a pattern of terrorism with the bombing.
“We will have to wait for some senators to be assassinated to show a pattern of terrorism,” she said.
She didn’t believe that there was a move to kill all congressmen or senators.
“And that is not because I am against the idea,” she quipped.
She often said that she was eating death threats for breakfast and that she was not at all concerned over her security.
“What’s the big deal? If we die, we can only go to a higher level. Maybe, there are no politicians in the higher level, which is an added blessing,” she explained.
(Here’s a warning: I’ll be devoting a lot of pages on Senator Miriam in the book on the Regular Batasan, the House and the Senate that I intend to write.)
A chronicle of past rumbles
I’d seen both verbal and physical violence at the Regular Batasan. Once, Speaker Nicanor Yñiguez had to adjourn a session when the warring groups of the Dimaporos and the Dianalans of Lanao went after each other’s throat first at the lounge then at the gallery.
I also recall the instance when then Member of Parliament Edno Joson of Nueva Ecija became uncontrollable after somebody shouted that he stop his speech. Edno saw red and asked the fellow MP to identify himself. When nobody did, he shouted: “Walang bayag ang nagsalita kung hindi siya tatayo (The speaker has no balls if he won’t stand up.) He hit the microphone with his fist before the session was abruptly adjourned. On his way out, Edno grabbed an Armalite rifle and fired it in the air, sending Marines to the ground. To his credit, Edno apologized the next session day for his outburst and moved that his unparliamentary remarks be stricken off the record.
In the Eighth Congress, Rep. Rodrigo Gutang of North Cotabato, a retired Army general, filed a bill pertaining to the district of Rep. Mike Mastura of Maguindanao. Mike, livid with anger, delivered a privileged speech and said, stressing each word: “My first instinct is to grab an Armalite and empty its bullets at him.” Gutang readily apologized and withdrew his bill.
Another trouble erupted in the Eighth Regular Session when Rep. Rufino Javier of Pasig challenged Speaker Ramon V. Mitra to a fistfight. Earlier, he figured into an altercation with Rep. Nani Perez of Batangas, earning for him the title “Fighting Congressman from Pasig.”
Perez himself almost got into a fight with Rep. Raul Daza of Northern Samar when he threatened to use Daza’s face as ashtray. Daza showed he was no mean boxer when he outpunched Rep. Jose Ramirez of Eastern Samar. “Para palang si Fernando Poe Jr. kung bumuntal si Raul!” a congressman told me.
Rep. Jorge Nuñez of Cavite once punched Isabela Rep. Tony Abaya of Isabela in the tummy at the session hall. Rep. Oscar Orbos of Pangasinan had to be restrained when Rep. Tet Garcia of Bataan remarked “Mau-Orbos tayong lahat diyan” while interpellating Orbos. Last July, Rep. Jonat de la Cruz almost went after a fellow congressman who wanted him to shorten his interpellation.
Senators Alfredo Lim and Rodolfo Biazon almost came to blows in the 13th Congress. A senator said that had a fistfight ensued, he would have bet “on the Marine,” referring to Biazon.