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Jun 10th
Home Columns JGL Eye PH Senate Vote Of Confidence Is Unconstitutional
PH Senate Vote Of Confidence Is Unconstitutional PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 24 January 2013 17:31



JGL Eye Column


(© 2013 Fil Am Extra Exchange) 


C HICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – When I was a kid and I messed things up and my parents would tell me to stop, I just stopped. And I tried not to mess things up again. I did not argue because arguing would only get me nowhere.


But most children my age, and even adult Filipinos, would still mount a spirited defense, as a knee-jerk reaction, without even thinking of its consequence.


This culture of being on a state of denial has metastasized in the collective psyche of Filipinos, especially politicians, who perfected it into an art form.

In Filipino gambling parlance, pusoy na, umiiwas pa o lumulusot pa. (Already a loser in a poker game, one would still place more bets. Only to lose bigger.)


When Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago exposed the illegality of the uneven distribution of 1.6-million pesos (US$38,095) Christmas gifts by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to 18 senators and 250,000 pesos (US$5,952) to Senator Santiago and three others namely, Senators Antonio “Sonny” T. Trillanes, IV, and Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, instead of admitting his own indiscretion and apologizing for his mistake, Senate President Enrile turned the table on his critics.


Mr. Enrile in his privilege speech called the expose a result of “personal conflict between me and four members of this Chamber (that) has triggered a venomous, malevolent and sustained campaign against me. This was spurred by my decision to grant them only P600,000 (US$14,285) each as additional MOOE last November and to hold the release of the additional MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) granted to the other Senators, except to my own office, last month.”


“Why hold the release of additional MOOE to the four senators?” is a question to Senate President Enrile begging for an answer.


If the unequal distribution would prompt a full-blown investigation and call for the filing of the charges against him on unconstitutional grounds, Mr. Enrile has nobody to blame for putting himself on the spot but himself.




M aybe if Senator Enrile reversed his decision to hold the release of the MOOE “due to inadvertence,” things would have turned out differently.


And it would not have been necessary for him to declare the Senate Presidency vacant either.


Contrary to reports that he was given a vote of confidence by his colleagues to continue as Senate President, they actually did not.


According to reports, out of the 23 senators, 11 of them voted for Mr. Enrile to stay on as Senate President following his privilege speech while three others, including Mr. Enrile, voted to replace Enrile. While two others abstained, seven others, including Senators Santiago and Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, were absent during the voting.


If one has to be legalistic and would use simple arithmetic, Mr. Enrile either had to reverse himself by voting for himself or he needs an additional vote to round out his votes to 12, to make his vote a majority, not plurality.  For him to keep the Senate Presidency, he needs 12 votes because it is the simple majority of 23 senators. Eleven votes is a mere plurality, which is against the provision of Sec. 16 (1) of Art. VI of the Constitution, which says, “The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives, its Speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective Members. Each House shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.” At the most, I consider Mr. Enrile a “holdover” Senate President until a replacement is elected!


In order to cure this deficit, in a future Senate session, when all the 23 Senators are present, Mr. Enrile can again declare the Senate Presidency vacant. He can reverse himself by voting for himself and asking the 11 other senators to affirm their votes of confidence for him. Or, whoever comes forward to contest the Senate Presidency must be able to muster at least 12 votes, including himself or herself, to replace Mr. Enrile.


What is noteworthy is that although 18 senators got the Christmas gifts, seven of them, including Enrile himself, kept their “independence” by not giving Senator Enrile the vote of confidence.


Perhaps, the seven Senators must have learned some lessons from voters during elections held under martial law: “Tanggapin ang pera, gamitin ang konsensiya.”  (Accept campaign donations from candidates but use your conscience when voting).




I salute these six Senators who accepted the Christmas gifts presumably believing that it was legal to accept them at the time it was given to them when they used their conscience not to vote or just abstained from voting for the Christmas donor, Mr. Enrile.


But I would caution  Sen. Pia Cayetano from donating the Christmas gifts to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s programs for abandoned and homeless children because such money is earmarked for MOOE that should be duly receipted as MOOE, not DSWD.


Allocating such money arbitrarily to DSWD, for instance, is against Sec. 6 of Art. VI of the Constitution, which says, “Discretionary funds appropriated for particular officials shall be disbursed only for public purposes to be supported by appropriate vouchers and subject to such guidelines as may be prescribed by law.” If the “guidelines” say the Christmas gifts are for MOOE, provided they are covered by liquidating receipts, then they are for MOOE, not for DSWD, nor for other public purposes. This is in keeping with the legal principle, expressio unius est exclusio alterius. (The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another.)

It would have been ideal if the 18 Senators were to return the Christmas gifts if they could not show any liquidating receipts from past MOOE’s. These receipts will form part of evidence that will be used as soon as Senator Santiago takes the matter to the Supreme Court if internal Senate investigation gets nowhere.


If Senator Santiago would be prevented from conducting an investigation due to “hypertension or bone marrow problems,” any other senator, like Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano or Senators Trillanes or Panfilo Lacson, could always continue the investigation.


After all, even after the death of Cebu Vice Gov. Gregorio G. Sanchez, who filed charges against suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia for encroaching upon Sanchez’ legislative powers, grave misconduct and abuse of authority, President Noynoy Aquino sustained the decision of the late Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Interior and Local Government to go ahead with case. Secretary Robredo said, “administrative case survives the death of the complainant and “unilateral acts of a private complainant will not bind the disciplining authority in its exercise of disciplinary power over erring public officials” and “complainant is only treated as witness.”

 In this case, Senator Santiago is merely treated as witness.

And I suppose the senators from the Liberal Party of President Aquino would be complementing the tuwid na daan (straight path) way of prosecuting Governor Garcia with the same zeal of support in case Senator Santiago goes forward with the investigation of the Christmas gifts. And even if Sen. Santiago would become indisposed.


God bless the Senate! God bless the Philippines! # # #


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