Privilege Speech
November 14, 2012

Privilege Speech of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
Session Hall, Senate of the Philippines
November 14, 2012

Mr. President, I would like to take a moment of the time of the Chamber to speak on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

This is in connection with the ongoing issue about plagiarism and immunity of the members of this Chamber to be questioned outside, for what they say in their speech inside this plenary session. I had been interviewed by the members of the press, the media, about this, and of course, I must say and I admit that in the course of these ambush interviews, one cannot always construct and structure his thoughts so suddenly to be able to communicate his thoughts in a very clear and understandable fashion. I am not blaming anybody, but I just want to put that into the record so that the public will know where I am coming from. And I would like to clarify what I have said on these issues - on the issue of plagiarism and on the issue of our immunity.

As far as plagiarism is concerned, I do not think there is anyone who can say that we are going to condone or abet any act of plagiarism in this Chamber. We are all honorable members of this House, elected by the Filipino people, entrusted to perform a function for them, to protect the interest of the country, the Filipino people, and to be true to our oath of office as legislators of the sovereign people of this Republic.

I personally am not in favor and have never done any act to copy or even think of appropriating unto myself the thoughts, the intellectual property or the ideas of other people. I am not a trained journalist, a trained writer, a literary person, but I have endeavored all my life both as a student and as a professional, as a law practitioner to see to it that whoever makes any intellectual pronouncements and whenever I use those pronouncements in the course of my professional work or my scholarly pursuit, I have always seen to it that there is a proper attribution done. And I am open to scrutiny by all the speeches and materials I have so far published and uttered to find out whether indeed I live up to this precept.

We are not condoning the act of plagiarism in the Senate. Far from it. If there is anyone of us wittingly or unwittingly who committed this act, then I am sure that that member would be man enough and honorable enough to stand up and answer for it. No one, but no one is above the law in this country. And most especially among us who are blessed enough to be elected to high positions in government to serve the Filipino people as the guardian of their common will. No one is beyond investigation here amongst us. If we commit any infraction of ethical standards, moral conduct or ethical behavior that is expected of us, we are open to be exposed to any investigation by the proper committee of this House and that is the Ethics Committee.

But as matter of constitutional law, we are invested with parliamentary privilege of free speech, untrammelled speech, to perform our duties as legislators of the people of this country. There is an important policy behind this grant of this privilege, and that is to allow us to speak out against whomsoever is involved, whether the highest and the mightiest authority in this land or the most sacred tradition or value in our society. We should be open to the privilege of speaking out our minds in order that we can really help in ferreting out the truth or exposing the falsehoods or venalities that may come by in our society. And that is the reason why I said that the Constitution embedded in the grant of legislative power to Congress for its members to be immune from what they say inside the Halls of Congress and that they should not be made accountable and answerable for it outside of this Hall. They can be investigated by the members of their peers and if unwarranted, disciplined even to the extent of being expelled as a member of this House.

The constitutional privilege of freedom of speech granted to us was given to us to enable us to speak on any issue, good or bad for the information of the people so that they will know what is going on. No one is immune from being investigated for misconduct done by us. We are not immune from unethical investigation as we have done many times in the course of time in the life of this institution.

If there is any ethical, any complaint for misconduct filed with the Ethics Committee, so be it. Let it be investigated by the Committee when properly refer to it in accordance with the Rules of this House. But no one can say that the mere fact that they have filed an ethics complaint against any member of this House has already proven his case. There must be at least a semblance, if not the reality, of a due process. Even for those of us, for our elected representatives of the people and more so because we are accountable to the people. And that is why when I was asked yesterday, whether it is proper for anybody to file an ethics case against the member of this Chamber, I said: "By all means, let it be referred to the proper Committee for investigation. And if warranted, let the member answer for his misconduct if there is such misconduct." But before that is reached, there must be a hearing. The law cannot condemn without any hearing. Otherwise, this is not a government of laws. This will become a government of men. The bedrock of our constitutional system is that we hear first before we condemn.

If there is any plagiarism committed by any member of this House, let the proper sanctions be imposed after the Ethics Committee shall have rendered a judgment that indeed there was a plagiarism committed regardless of his involvement. Whether it is the President of this Chamber, whether he is a high official of this Chamber, or whether he is just a mere member of this Chamber.

I would like to state for the record that all my years as a member of this House from 1987 onwards to now, as well as when I was a member of the Parliament during the period of the 1973 Constitution, from 1978 onward to 1984, I never abused, misused or utilized my privilege of immunity from accountability outside of the Halls of Congress to malign, to libel or to demean, ridicule; or in any manner, rudely condemn without any justifiable reason, any conduct of a private citizen, or even the officials of this country. But I was as fiercely committed to expose any venality and misconduct even by members of this House and most especially by the members of the bureaucracy, and even of the private sector when warranted by the evidence in my possession. The records of this House will show that many times, I have exposed and conducted investigations of the nullities going on in our society.

And currently, we are handling one that is now becoming to be a co-célebrѐ exposing the venalities in the importation of a commodity that hurts the greatest number of Filipinos, our farming communities in the country who raise rice for a living. And we are not wrong in what we did. It turns out that what we exposed is true. And we did that in accordance with the privilege given to us to have freedom of speech, a broad freedom to speak out in this Hall whenever there is a necessity for it.

And so, Mr. President, I would like to reiterate that constitutionally, it is not my own invention or my opinion, it is written in black and white in our written Constitution, that a member of Congress, whether of the Senate or of the House of Representatives is immune from accountability over things that he says in Chamber because that is a privilege given to him as a member of this Chamber or of the House of Representatives. I would like to emphasize this in order to set the matter at rest and straighten the record because there has been so much misunderstanding about the issue now being discussed especially in the social media, I understand regarding what they call plagiarism done in the House.

Now, if there is such a thing, and if their claim is proven to be true, then I am sure that this House will not hesitate to discipline any member who committed that act. I hope that this statement will finally understand the meaning and import what we have been saying here all along.

Thank you Mr. President.

News Latest News Feed