Press Release
December 10, 2012

Transcript of Sen. Santiago's manifestation on the Senate plenary

What the sponsor is moving for is to merely transfer the discussion on the RH Bill from page 4 of our agenda to page 1 of her agenda. There is no motion as yet to close the period of amendments. What she wants to happen--and I concur with her ambition--is that we should discuss first the RH Bill so that we'll have all the time this afternoon to listen to all the amendments. That way we can observe certain principles of law.

First principle: The principle of interdepartmental courtesy. No less than the President of the Philippines has already articulated his desire that this bill should be given priority, and he himself has announced his position that he is in favor of the RH Bill. If we cannot see our way clear to agreeing with his personal opinion, at least, as a matter of courtesy to a coequal branch of government, we can grant his wish at no cost to our legislative work that we should take up this bill in a timely fashion such that the House of Representatives will not be kept waiting until a point in time when there will be no time left for a bicam [committee] to convene and discuss the bill, and return the reports of the bicam committee to the Senate and the House. So the principle of interdepartmental courtesy applies not only to the executive branch, but also to a coequal chamber of the legislative branch. We owe interdepartmental courtesy both to President Aquino and to the House of Representatives.

Second point: This bill has been pending in the Philippine Congress for five congresses--in other words, for thirteen years. What is so important that it has been neglected for thirteen years? This has been under discussion. It has evoked the participation--the heated participation, in fact--of many sectors of society. Philippine society in general, civil society, has already received the full information that they need to support or not support this bill. Just because there are certain facts that have not been aired--mostly footnote facts--does not mean that we should wait for every single trivial mundane pursuit of every point involved in this bill is articulated and discussed. We have to stop at some point. Thirteen years is enough. And for this particular Congress, we spent almost a year discussing this measure. I do not see why we should be charged with railroading this bill we you have all of thirteen years to discuss this as an institutional legislative branch of government.

But more legally, let me cite for example the principle that where there is no prohibition, the law does not prohibit. There is no prohibition in our rules that an item in the agenda cannot be transferred. In fact we've done it many times, too numerous to recall. Nobody has ever objected. If it is included in the agenda, we want to jump it ahead of our bills, that normally is just accepted--unless you want to put it to a vote. So this is just a procedural matter, it is not as if we are cutting off somebody right in mid-speech.

Plus, I have a long list of jurisprudence where the Supreme Court has held any chamber of the Congress may change its procedural internal rules at any time. We have no judicial interest, and we proclaim the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to determine whether there has been an unconstitutional or illegal variation of the rules. Since the Senate promulgated its rules of procedure, it is for the Senate to change anytime, meaning to say the rules of the Senate can always be overridden by majority vote of those present and voting, assuming there is a quorum. That is the ruling in the very old case of Osmeña v. Pendatun decided in 1960, and later on reiterated through a long line of cases until 1997 in the case of Arroyo v. De Venecia. I can even cite later cases, but I think that I have made the point.

Finally, in 2007, just a few years ago, Sen. Pia Cayetano was sponsoring the Anti-Rabies Bill, and Sen. Madrigal, for several weeks--not months as we have done in the RH Bill--kept on postponing her amendments until Sen. Pia lost patience and moved to close the period of amendments. Sen. Madrigal objected on the ground that she is still in the process in making her amendments, and the majority at that time, voting viva voce, voted in favor of Sen. Pia Cayetano's motion to end the period of amendments, and at that point closed the period of second reading. So what we are doing is traditional and pursuant to tradition and custom. I believe that I have the concurrence of the Legislative Parliamentary Counseling Service on this particular point. We have always done this, no one has ever objected, there is no contrary provision in our own Rules, and the Supreme Court has said that these are matters for us to settle. It is not a question of individual rights or violation of human rights, that is what the Supreme Court said. So I respectfully submit that the motion should be passed.

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