Santiago walks out in protest of stormy debate over C-5 road controversy

January 26, 2010 11:21 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Jan. 26 –- Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago walked out of the Senate plenary on Tuesday after delivering co-sponsorship speech on resolution No. 1472 in protest of the exchange of "unparliementary" words during Monday’s presentation of committee report that censured senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar for his unethical behavior in connection with the C-5 road project controversy.

The feisty lady senator also refused to accept any interpellation after delivering her speech which stressed the need for a two-third votes of the Senate entire membership to uphold the censorship slapped on Villar.

Santiago cited Section 97 of the rules of the Senate which provides that the Senate may punish any member for disorderly behavior and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, suspend or expel a member.

”The threshold question is whether censure and restitution of some P6 billion combined, constitute such behavior as to require two-thirds vote. My humble answer is “yes”, Santiago explained.

In explaining her vote in the resolution which clears Villar from the C-5 road controversy, Santiago disagreed with the committee report that the standard of proof should merely be “credible substantial evidence.”

”The question posed is whether the penalty sought to be imposed is better assimilated to disorderly behavior; or is better assimilated to suspension or expulsion,” she said.

”Assuming for the sake of argument, that disorderly behavior calls for mere majority vote, none of us can honestly say that censure, which is a blot on a senator’s political record, coupled with restitution of P6 billion, both constitute merely disorderly behavior,” Santiago added.

Santiago said she felt insulted when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile countered Santiago’s two-thirds vote opinion, saying “these so-called experts have not ready the precedents in the country and in the United States.”

”Without any provocation, I have been insulted. Since we now operate under a democracy and not under martial law, allow me to set modesty aside, and in self-defense, to identify myself as the RTC judge who upheld free speech and the right to bail even at the very height of the oppressive powers of martial law,” she explained.

”I have always been polite in expressing a legal opinion contrary to those of my colleagues. But I certainly will not countenance any senator insulting me, just because my opinion happens to be different from his,” Santiago added, referring to Enrile’s opinion.

Santiago was one of the 12 senators who signed the Senate resolution 1472, clearing Villar from the allegations that he influenced the realignment of the C-5 road project and he made double insertion of P400-million in the 2008 national budget.

In an effort to prevent tempers to flare up, the debate on whether to uphold the committee report has been suspended to give time in approving other important bills with only four remaining session days left before the Senate adjournment. (PNA) V3/jfm

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