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PRIVILEGE SPEECH Re Ethics Case

I rise on a matter of privilege to present the truth about the hearing last Thursday. Video. Badgering. Nagalit, nang-insulto. Hearing Suspended.

Some rules of parliament and procedure were broken by Senator Gordon. ? Primarily the right of the minority to be heard;

Dishonestly insisting that the phrase "comite de absuelto" was made on the record;

Disregarding the objection of a member;

Disrespected and insulted a member of the committee. He mentioned cockpit of chismis insinuating that I was just peddling rumors when clearly, the information came from his resource persons. He further insulted me by saying, "wag daw ako nagdadaldal nang hindi ko nalalaman." If at all, the comite de absuelto remarks are but a response to his cockpit of chismis;

As in previous committee hearings, as chairman, he monopolized the flow of the proceeding by conducting a monologue for hours, thereby, not giving an adequate opportunity for other senators to ask questions.

Normally, I am not the whining type and could have easily let these things pass so I could focus on the more important issues at hand. But in the spirit of justice and fairness, at the appropriate time, I'd be filing my own Ethics case against Sen. Gordon for his unparliamentary and unethical acts as Senator and Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee. I will also expose his corrupt acts as Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

But I digress. To my defense, let me stress the importance of statements made on record:

Senate Rules or the Rules of parliament only cover words said or actions done while a session or hearing is on-going. Conversations made while a session or hearing is suspended or adjourned are not covered. Statements made in private or in the Senator's lounge are definitely not covered. Statements made in media are not covered. Let me recall, how then Senator Alan Cayetano called Former President and then Senator Noynoy Aquino as "abnormal" and how other senators publicly maligned former Senate President Manny Villar prior and during the 2010 elections. I was also once called a "mosquito" by the late Senator Joker Arroyo. Lastly, we clearly remember how the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called a lot of Senators or resource persons "fungus-face" or "imbeciles", yet nobody dared to call her out. Previous instances cited, where Senators Pacquiao, Ejercito and Zubiri were claimed to have been offended, were attributed to statements made in the media and they only felt alluded to. They were never individually named.

We are all political figures here. We are in the business of influencing or being influenced by public opinion to forge public policy or to promote public interest. Our primary weapons are words. The unwritten rule is, if you can give it, then you should be able to take it. And since we are in a Democracy, we can be liberal in our use of words to pursue our political message. But the line dividing what can or cannot be said or done while in parliament or even in media is quite clear to me. Even in this era of kabastusan at pagmumura under the Duterte Administration, for as long as I am not cursing or using cuss words and I am not physically hurting anybody, then I am not crossing that line. I have never crossed that line.

Now even assuming I said comite de absuelto while the hearing was ongoing, the terms lawyering and comite de absuelto are not offensive language by any standard. My standard for offensive language is this, if I say a word or phrase to a person and that person would instantly slap or punch or get mad at me, then that is clearly an offensive word or phrase. Like the "F" word or Duterte's favorite PI for example. But the term lawyering could either mean a noble profession or a way of defending someone, it is by no means an intrinsically offensive or bad word. It may have bruised the ego of Senator Gordon but saying that word, no matter how you spin it, is not unparliamentary. As to the term "comite de absuelto", just try telling that to 1000 people and see if they'd be instantly offended by it. I'd even be surprised if they would react at all. Precisely because it is not an offensive language per se.

Let me cite an example to highlight the difference between being offended and offensive language. During a heated debate, then Senator Enrile said to then Senator Alan Cayetano, "Eh, yung kahoy na pinapagawa ng bahay niyo, san galing yun?" Talagang nakaka-offend yun, talagang masakit yung pagkasumbat na yun, yet not a single word used in that sentence is offensive language. Still, then Senator Cayetano just sucked it all up because he knows then Senator Enrile already lost the debate when Enrile resorted to ad hominem attacks. No ethics case.

Let me now bring up the controversial "na-ano ka lang" remarks of the Majority Leader which were made during the hearing of the Commission on Appointments addressed to then Sec. Judy Taguiwalo. I recall the outrage of the various women's groups then. But when asked, as a member of the ethics committee, to comment about a possible ethics case, I said that while it was unfortunate that Senator Sotto's remarks offended a lot of women, "na-ano ka lang" per se is not offensive language which is the one prohibited in the Senate Rules. Iniisip ko at that time, i-eexpel o isususpend ko ang isang senador dahil lang dun? Hindi ko minamaliit yung pagka-offend ng mga kababaihan, pero mas mabigat sakin yung mandato ng taong bayan na naghalal sa kanya. Kahit censure or reprimand, hindi ko magawa kasi maliwanag nga sa rules, bukod pa run, nakakita na ako ng mas maaanghang pang palitan ng salita at napalagpas naman. Ngayon, "lawyering at comite de absuelto" lang na si Sen. Gordon lang ang na-offend, ipapa-expel, ipapasuspend or even ire-reprimand ako? Parang hindi yata tama yun.

The Rules were designed to set a standard that could be applied to everyone with no ambiguity wherein offensive language is not relative to the sensitivity or feelings of each individual senator. Hindi ito issue ng majority or minority. Para sa lahat ito kasi the precedent you set now could be applied to you pag nasa minority ka na at pwede ka rin pagkaisahan. Sana wag ganun.

At any rate, I fully trust the wisdom and judgment of my colleagues. Kilala nila ako.

Alam ng mga kasamahan natin dito, na passionate lang ako or emotionally transparent ako sa mga issues na malapit sa aking puso. Gaya niyo, meron din akong ipinaglalaban. Maaaring minsan magkakatunggali tayo sa mga issues pero alam niyo na sa labas ng pulitika, hindi ako masamang tao at wala akong masamang hangarin. Maaaring mabigat ako na kaaway ng mga tiwali, pero alam niyo na tunay ako makipagkaibigan, maayos at direcho ako na kausap, at tapat ako na kaalyado na handang makipaglaban para sa inyo. Kilala ko rin ang mga pinagkakautangan ko ng loob at tinatanaw ko yan hanggang nasa tama. Alam niyo rin na hindi ako marunong mambully, marunong lang akong tumayo laban sa mga bully paminsan-minsan. Lastly, maaaring magkakahiwalay man tayo ng pananaw sa pulitika ngayon pero malay niyo, sa malapit na hinaharap, baka magkakasama rin tayo.

At this point, I will be stepping down as a member of the Ethics Committee so as not to influence the case against me. At the proper time, the Minority leader would designate my replacement.

Thank you.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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