• The self-immolation of the Senate

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    By focusing our attention on President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s political dysfunctions and constitutional excesses, we may have led ourselves to believe–or at least to hope–that Congress and the Supreme Court remain functional and defensible institutions, despite the near total corruption of our leaders.

    It may be quite patriotic to try to keep that hope alive. But the facts may not be able to long sustain it.

    Corruption has become the system, as former Defense Secretary/ National Security Adviser and now National Transformation Council member Norberto Gonzales told a recent Kapihan in Quezon City, and that all but a few exceptions are inextricably enmeshed in it. Therefore the people, as sovereign, must now throw out this system, first, by dismissing the entire leadership of our so-called political class.

    Of the two other branches under siege, the Judiciary, the unelected branch, has shown the greater courage. For all its built-in weaknesses, heightened by the Malacañang-initiated impeachment and removal of the last pre-Aquino Chief Justice, the Supreme Court has stood its ground on the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which has exposed the full extent of Aquino’s corruption of Congress.

    But the Court has other vulnerabilities. By admitting that it gets so much funding from the US AID, the Court has unwittingly revealed why it had to declare the Reproductive Health Law “not unconstitutional” despite the fact that it mandates population control, which violates the Constitution, but in which the US AID has a vested interest.

    The Congress, for its part, is totally lost. Both Houses were involved in the Malacanang bribery to pass the widely opposed RH Law, and to impeach and remove Renato Corona, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s last appointed chief justice. Both Aquino and most of the bribe-takers have remained in office, including the leaders of the House committee on justice who just threw out three impeachment complaints against Aquino without any investigation or debate.

    But the leaders of both Houses seem to behave as though the crime never happened or that were not at all part of it, the crime, and that they would ultimately be spared from the mounting public rage. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for one seems to believe that and the thoroughly discredited House could still propose constitutional amendments granting foreigners the same rights as Filipinos to own land, exploit the country’s natural resources and operate public utilities, at a time when the homelessness and landlessness of millions of Filipinos, their having been excluded from the fruits of the nation’s wealth, and their having had to bear the world’s highest cost of public utilities cry to Heaven for justice.

    At Belmonte’s initiative, the Congress has just passed a law, which allows big foreign banks henceforth to do business in the Philippines without any restrictions on ownership. This was done without any perceptible public debate, absolutely mindless of the fact that the big international banks have been at the center of the biggest rip-offs of our time, which have seen the sinking of the economies of Iceland, Greece and Cyprus, among others.

    Senate President Frank Drilon for his part has “refused to dignify” any and all reports that he, of all the ruling politicians, had the most extensive dealings with the alleged pork barrel “queen” Janet Lim Napoles, and had received the biggest slice of the unconstitutional DAP for his Iloilo projects, just as he had received the biggest “incentives” after convicting Corona. He had received P100 million against Francis Escudero’s P98 million, Johnny Ponce Enrile’s P92 million, and P50 million for the rest of the 20 others, less one, who had voted for Corona’s conviction.

    Drilon cannot seem to see that the Senate under his presidency is now all termites-eaten, its very façade, no longer simply its foundation, has begun to crumble. Thus, he sees nothing wrong in the sensational but essentially worthless Senate investigations, ostensibly “in aid of legislation,” into matters already before the Ombudsman, which has allowed corrupt young senators to grandstand on the alleged corruption of others, without having themselves investigated first for their own corruption.

    But the self-destruction of the Senate has long proceeded on its own from its sheer refusal to follow its own rules. Take the simple matter of sessions. Under the Rules, the Senate is to meet in plenary session at 3 p.m. on weekdays, except when it decides otherwise. Until I left the Senate in 2001, this meant 3 pm of Monday through Wednesday, and 10 am of Thursday, which was devoted to treaties and local bills. They have cut out the Thursday, and many times at 4 p.m., they have not yet begun.

    Attendance in all sessions shall be compulsory, and no committee meeting or hearing shall be held when the session is going on. Today senators routinely skip the session to do so-called “constituency duties,” and sensational committee hearings are free to compete with the plenary session.

    The session hall shall be hallowed and sacrosanct, and shall be used solely for legislative business and for the holding of necrological services for a deceased former member of the Senate. Today, it is also used for some awarding ceremonies and convocations.

    Only foreign dignitaries and visiting Members of Parliament/Congress of other countries shall be acknowledged by the Chair during sessions. Today, the merest visitor from some rural barangay is acknowledged by the Chair.

    Not even the committees have been able to follow their own rules. Under the Rules, one-third of the committee members shall constitute a quorum, but in no case shall it be less than two. Which means, if a committee has five members or fewer, two shall constitute one-third. But a committee of nine or more , 10, 12, cannot do business with just two members present. And yet the record will bear that a great many Senate committee hearings that had recommended specific legislations had only two members present. This renders all such Committee Reports void, except that they were never questioned on the Floor.

    On “inquiries in aid of legislation,” the referral of a particular matter to a specific Committee does not mean an automatic mandate upon that committee to investigate. Under the Rules, the Committee should meet and decide whether an actual inquiry is called for. And yet, the Chairperson thinks he or she is the entire committee and interprets any resolution calling for an inquiry as a compulsory directive for the committee to investigate. This is what happened in the current Blue Ribbon political investigation by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Koko Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes IV into allegations of overpricing in the construction of a Makati city building, which are now in the hands of the Ombudsman.

    But what is about to take the cake is the Senate “leadership” surrendering abjectly to a Sandiganbayan order suspending for 90 days two of its members who are now detained on plunder charges. In 1997, the Senate decided in the case of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that the judicial branch has no power to suspend a member of the legislative branch, and that if such an order were received by the Senate President, it should be immediately sent to the Archives, to be retrieved later if deemed appropriate by the Senate.

    That decision was reached after extensive consultations with leading constitutional experts, and upon recommendation of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges under the late former Chief Justice and Senate President Marcelo Fernan and the Committee on Rules, which I chaired. Drilon, the current Senate President, signed that joint committee report as a member of the Committee on Rules.

    That he seems to be confused on what to do now, in the face of the Sandigan order suspending Senators Estrada and Enrile, merely shows a part of what has died in the Senate.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    18 Comments

    1. Wala na akong ma e- “Comment”. Nasabi na lahat.

      More Power to you, Kit.

      Mabuhay Kit – Mabuhay Manila Times.

      Mabuti na lang may “Manila Times”, that provides us all this Info.

    2. senate at its lowest…brilliance gone so do with intelligence and integrity…it used to be an august chamber, now an aghast chamber. can’t we just do away with the ‘honorable’ attached to their names?

    3. No offense Senator, but how do you propose to rescue the Senate from the depths it has fallen into? I hope its not another church initiated signature campaign.

    4. pulitikong pulitiko na ang dating ni sen trillanes, malayong malayo sa dati nyang “prinsipyo”, nung matulungan ng mga kakampi nya noon para makalabas sa kulungan, sila naman ngayon ang inaaway ng atapang atao na to pero duwag makipag debate. akala siguro nitong naging “aksidenteng” senador na ito ay gusto sya ng taong maging presidente. pati itong si cayetano at pimentel, napakabatang mga naging intriggero dahil sa pwesto. simple lang naman, kung may ebidensya kayo, kasuhan nyo sa korte, tapos.

      kawawang bayan, nawawaldas ang oras, panahon at salapi dahil sa mga ambisyoso. ginawang pundasyon ang paninira sa iba para sya nilang maging tapakan upang sila ay umangat. naging saksi kami ngayong mga panahon na ito na kung ikaw ay kalaban sa pulitika ay dapat kang ipahiya, kasuhan at ikulong kabaligtaran naman kung ikaw ay kakampi na kung saan ay abswelto at hinding hindi magnanakaw, hindi magkakamali at malinis ang mga kamay.

      tsk tsk .. wala ang mga panahon na ang mga mambabatas ay ang kapakanan ng bayan ang una at hindi ang pamumulitika. Cayetano, Pimentel, Trillanes, Drilon, Guigona, de Lima, COA Tan, Abad, Roxas, Pnoy hindi ba kayo nagkasala sa bayan? hindi ba kayo magnanakaw o kaya ay protektor ng magnanakaw? TUWID NA DAAN?? ‘di kami habang buhay na tanga. Ang kasamaang ginawa sa iba ay may kapalit na parusa ng Langit.

    5. foreign banks papasok na sa bansa, dapat na maghanda sa matinding competition and mga local banks sa Pinas. Babaguhin ang Constitution esp. yung sa economic provisions kung saan maari nang mag ari ng kalupaan ang mga banyaga. Lahat ito ay nangyari at mangyayari sa termino ni Pnoy sa pamumuno ng house under Belmonte, hmmm??? Di ko alam profile ni Belmonte, di ba ito isang negosyante? baka itong mga nangyaring ito at mga mangayayari habang sila ang namumuno eh para lang sa pansariling interes??? Isip-isip….

    6. As Confucius said ‘A piece of rotten wood cannot be carved, nor can a wall of dried dung be trowelled…’, this senate is hopeless. No amount of shame is left of them so any diplomatic effort of making them change will only be in vain.

    7. Just like the Executive Branch, the Legislature has not lived up to it’s mandate of serving the people. I hope and pray that the Judiciary does not fall through the cracks either.

    8. Government has never been so corrupt and full of presidential puppy dogs.
      The only remedy now is to purge it with the Armed Forces. unfortunately, even the soldiers don’t know who to trust for nearly all their trusted patriotic leaders are now replaced with Aquino idiots.

    9. Gone are the days when the Senate had up to five or so patriotic, intellectually qualified and politically experienced, outstanding statesmen, each of whom could be a morally uprioght president of the Philippines.

    10. drillon is only being himself. during his presidency of the senate during arroyo’s time, halos walang output ang senado at yung mga imbestigasyon initiated ni lacson ay walang natapos kundi puro demonization of lacson’s victims; ang natapos lang yata ay yung fertilizer scam na pilit na tinapos ni sen magsaysay

    11. Sen. Tatad, let those Senate and Lower House save their own souls for 30 pieces of silver. Let us face it, the entire Congress is already a damaged institution only because of greed. The public, especially the voting citizens must be informed that these are the same men and women who added to their daily miseries. God is a fair God and we pray that He will show His displeasure and sadness of what these thieves have done to their fellow human beings for our miserable condition.

    12. The Senate represented by those in charge are lost. They do not follow any rules set by the Senate itself. What a bad example of doing the right thing.

    13. It was unfair, irresponsible , even malicious of you to imply that the RH law decision by the Supreme Court was influenced by the donations it received from U.S. AID. Unsupported statements like this only serve to put the institution in a bad light and diminishes the public trust and confidence they need to fulfill their constitutional mandate. If this is how low you regard the Supreme Court, why didn’t you ask your patron, the Opus Dei , to let go of some of its wealth to top the donation of US AID, to ensure victory for the anti-RH Law advocates?

      On the the recent law on foreign banks, if the Constitution puts no restrictions on their ownership of p

    14. Thank you for this great new! After 9-11 effect, just when P-Noy’s first day of absence! This is great let us REMOVE him to office! Culpable violation and betrayal of public//sovereignty’s trust, treason on behalf of the grandfather’s right. R.A 8371. The self-governance has not been promulgated by the Administration for good governance. They still want to function but dysfunction is what the people got. Amazing systemic schematic criminal organization. . The Ombudsman has not answer yet the Complaint by the Sovereignty, the rights of all the Filipino people against the President, file last August, 27, 2014, and a follow up letter of response accepted by the office of HON. Chairwoman Conchita Carpio, Sept. 5, 2014. .

    15. Thank you Mr. Tatad for your article. At least there is someone outside of the mainstream media exposing the shenanigans of the politicians and writing an honest assessment of the current socio-political state of our beloved country.

      One cannot help but feel a sense of loss and despair that the current system of utter corruption that has permeated the filipino society down to its very core will ever be eradicated in our lifetime.

      Pity our country.

    16. Andres R. Samson on

      Systemic and dysfunctional. Stand down all these people and institutions and let’s get back to rebuilding our own liberal democracy as truly representative of the “the people, by the people, for the people.”

    17. What do you expect from a bunch of CROOKS? Is there anyone totally clean in the government? It is a way of government life in the Philippines. Disgusting to say the least.