November 12, 2012
Transcript of Interview
ASC: As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, we'll deliver the same statement we had when other ethics cases were filed with the ethics committee.
We were just overtaken by events like the impeachment early in the year and the budget hearings but I've already asked the staff to look for an available time and room and to check the availability of the members to approve the rules of the committee.
We'll then look into the pending cases of those who filed earlier and we'll try to find the time to hear all of these cases.
But I can only mention up to this point because we have to be neutral. It means that this is the prerogative of the citizens to file a complaint against a senator. As long as it falls within the rules of the ethics committee then we will hear it.
Now, whether or not a particular act constitutes a violation or unethical behavior will have to fall under the definitions according to the rules and the consensus of the members. But I can assure everyone of a fair hearing with all of these issues at hand.
Reporter: Pero agad bang maasikaso ang mga ito?
It will depend on the number of the cases already filed with the ethics committee and the corresponding decision - either "first in, first out" or according to relevance. But on one hand the Senate has to show no bias and that we side with no one, on the other hand we're a collegial body so we have to balance the issues of the ethics committee with all other Senate schedules.
We can't be fighting each other's office since it will be to the detriment of all the other issues. On the other hand, people need to have confidence in the Senate. Hindi pwedeng hindi paganahin ang ethics committee. Kasi kahit na nagkakaisa kami pero wala namang kumpiyansa ang tao sa amin, wala ring saysay yun. Pero hindi din naman pwedeng nag-aaway kami palagi.
So the question is how to have a balance. I'm sure with the membership of the committee that's very balanced among the senators, we can find the time and the resources to hear all of these.
We will not focus on only one case. We have to be fair to everyone. Marami rami na ngang ethics cases ang na-file. The question now is: are those who filed still interested?
Reporter: Ilan na ba yung pending ngayon?
I will double check if under the rules I can release a list or even a number of pending cases. But the procedure with this is that there has to be a preliminary determination. So what I can suggest to the members is tackle it like the Senate agenda. Ipila na at basahin na lahat tapos sunud-sunod nang gawin yung preliminary determination.
Reporter: Sabay sabay po ba silang i-t-tackle?
My suggestion is something similar to what's being done in the session hall. After the first reading, then all the other bills will follow. Hindi mo naman alam kung lahat ay desidido pang isampa ang kaso. Di mo rin alam kung sa preliminary determination ay magffull blown hearing tayo.
Hindi sabay sabay pero ilalagay lahat sa agenda at ipipila. Makikita natin dun kung alin ang mapupunta sa main hearing base sa merits nung kaso o kung ano ang pwedeng matanggal na.
Reporter: Sa dinami dami ng nagfile, may na-hear na ba kayo?
Ni hindi tayo umabot sa rules. If I can refresh your memory, during the time of Senator Lacson's ethics case, I gave out the rules. Many were never returned and I've been told informally that these cases were not a priority at that time.
Some of the senators suggested that I should just go on even if the usual +1 or +2 make up the quorum. I just expressed to the other members of the Senate that unlike the other committees whose case will be brought eventually to the floor so it can proceed even with just one member present, I would prefer that there would be 3 or 4 members at all time.
Because regardless of what you decide on, when it reaches the floor there is already a verdict. Although theoretically the floor or the plenary will decide, it seems to take on the form of an appeal. So to be fair to the senator who's the respondent, I think it would be better if I had commitments from other members to hear a certain case.
I've already asked the staff to start making arrangements. I'll also personally talk to the members to ask for their ideas then I'll inform the members of the press.
Reporter: Kapag wala kayong nakuhang commitment galing sa iba anong gagawin niyo?
The advice of the other senators like Senator Escudero is just to call a hearing and then we'll see who attends. I'm just saying that I'll prefer to try first so that it will be the decision of not one person but of the committee. Kasi kahit anong sabihin mo, kung ganito kaselan yung mga issues, baka magkakaroon ng maling akusasyon. Meaning whether you throw it out or you hear it, there will be opinions on fairness speading.
We're senators and we took an oath but we're also politicians. So I just want to make sure that if a majority of the members are there that it will be considered a collegial decision and not just the decision of one or two members.
Reporter: Itong magffile ng kaso against Senator Sotto ay mukhang desidido talaga. Can you say that the hearing will start before the year ends?
It's too late to send out the notice today even if we find a room and achieve quorum. But definitely we'll deal with this until Wed. Then my plan is if the rules are approved is to have a hearing the week after for all the pending cases. Depende kung anong mangyayari sa hearing na yun, doon ko lang masasabi sa inyo kung gaano kabilis.
Based on those two hearings. One is to finish the rules and the agenda which is next week. The other is the first hearing of all the pending cases the week after.
Reporter: Paano yun? Will you hear the Sotto case first?
Ilalagay sa agenda kasama ng lahat ng pumasok. Let's say the Sotto case is letter E but all the other cases A to D will be discussed first. All of these will undergo the same process.
Under the rules there are some technical but substantial rules that we have to comply with. For example the time to answer, the time to give them the complaint, etc.
So even if they can get a copy of the complaint, we will still follow the official rules as to when they received it and how they will answer it.
Reporter: Paano niyo malalaman kung kailan i-h-hear yun kay Senator Sotto kapag dumating yung mga nagfile?
Kung ano yung mga nasa rules, dapat yun ang sundin.
Reporter: Kung hindi interesado ang complainant, iddismiss na ba yung case?
Yes. Unless it's apparent in the document that there is really a violation. Walang kaibahan sa criminal case. Kapag may nagfile ng criminal case, may mga kaso na kapag yung witness umatras then wala ka pang ibang ebidensiya to proceed. Pero mayroong iba na dahil nasa dokumento ang ebidensya, maski di humarap yung witness ay pwede mong ma-convict. Duty pa rin ng ethics committee to hear the case if ganoon.
Reporter: Mahirap kung any senator ang subject ng complaint?
We're a collegial body. But that's the balance - that you're not above the law. It's the balance also that you need a certain degree of statesmanship and cooperation to pass the laws and to be able to conduct business as a legislative body.
Reporter: Mahirap ba dahil majority leader ang kalaban?
It really does not matter since we're only 23. It's just as difficult if it were anyone else.
Reporter: Hindi ba magccomplain bukas na mabubuksan pa ba yung ibang pending cases?
Yes it was just a matter of timing. I really did not intend to end the whole session with so many pending cases. But we also need support, you need people who want it. Traditionally, the ethics committee of any legislative body has been very cautious precisely because even if you convict, you might be putting other more pressing agenda at risk. There's already public admonishment.
Look what happened in the Villar case in 2010, for example. History will judge but it had effects on legislation and our relations as senators. Having said that, people are saying that it's good that senators will also be looking at the actions of their fellows.
Reporter: Tanong ko lang yun process, what will happen?
Let me just give you a copy of the rules because I do not want to issue a statement that might endanger the case. It can be misinterpreted as favoring the other.
Let me just say that with the rules there are specific proposals that are a part of our experience in the ethics committee.
Although we have a working draft already, I am open to other suggestions. If it's possible that I will not even vote and the members will decide, that's okay. I can just implement these.
Reporter: How fast can you draft and finalize the rules?
The rules have already been drafted. The hearing next week is to approve the rules. Then assuming that it is, the hearing next week will be forming the agenda of the cases that have been filed. I can only answer until there. After that, it depends what happens on the hearing.
Reporter: So ilang cases?
Let me see. We'll give you a copy of the rules, the members.
Reporter: So the Sotto case will be tackled after the pending cases? We'll see what rules will be approved. But my statements have been consistent that I prefer if "first in, first out". But I'm not saying that you can't tackle it simultaneously.
Reporter: So magpapatawag kayo ng hearing on these days?
Theoretically, once you have them on the agenda, you've already started the hearing there. That's the process. There's an allotted number of days for you to give the complaint, for them to answer. So yung sinasabi niyong layman's terms na hearing ay yung confrontation na between the prosecution and the defense. This comes after they've given their response with the pleading.
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