Privilege Speech of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino
August 4, 2010
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues.
I wish to speak about the events this week which I think might affect my duties as a member of this House. We are all adjusting to the new situation: a former president is now a member of Congress.
Sabi ng marami, we are now at the crossroad of history. In the President’s own words, narito tayo ngayon sa isang punto kung saan pipili tayo kung alin ang tatahakin nating landas—ang daang baluktot o ang daang matuwid.
Cliché as it may sound, it is imperative that we assess the previous roads we have taken in order to properly determine the best route towards national progress. It is required that we deliver a post mortem to the previous administration. We should not entirely abandon this duty to the Truth Commission. As the representatives of the people, we have to articulate the sentiments of our constituents. It may not be good news for some, but there are people in this country who do not echo the sentiments of the previous government, who do not equate infrastructure with performance, GDP growth with genuine progress, people who do not live in delusion.
Sa proseso ng paglalagom sa nakaraang administrasyon, it is inevitable that something unpleasant will be delivered on the floor about the previous government. Because the truth Mr. Speaker and fellow representatives, outside this confined space of bright lights and grandeur is a world of darkness, of glaring poverty, of suppressed freedoms.
This is the dilemma, and this is I ask to all of you: How do we perform our duty without offending “She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named” in the plenary? Which should we value more: the sensibilities of House members or the right of the people to hear the truth about the past government?
I fear that 50 years from now, when historians will review our journals, they will only find glowing remarks about You-Know-Who or She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-the-Plenary? Why? Because all the remarks that deal with the unpleasant, the ugly realities of the past government have been removed from the records under the guise of upholding decency and decorum. Sadly, this was backed by the House leadership which is affiliated with the new government that promises an era of change. The same government which proclaims, “there can no reconciliation without justice.”
This week, Representatives Walden Bello and Teddy Casino were accused of disrespecting a fellow member by delivering allegedly “unparliamentary” remarks in their speeches. Parts of their speeches were removed from the records particularly those referring to the corruption and human rights violations of the past administration. Your honor, this sets a bad precedent.
I have been here only for one year, 16 months to be exact, but long enough for me to hear speeches of fellow members criticizing fellow members.
Let me cite a few examples:
June 1, 2009: Former ANAD partylist Representative Jun Alcover blatantly and without basis named progressive partylist representatives as a “scourge of deceit and brutality.” He accused Representatives Maza and Ocampo as adherents of an inhuman ideology.
December 4, 2009: Former Bantay Partylist Representative Jovito Palparan accused Samar Representative Reynaldo Uy of having a private army.
Last day of session of the 14th Congress. Former A Teacher Partylist Representative Piamonte accused Representative Sarmiento of the same partylist of corruption and told him to “resign and shut up.”
In these instances, no one objected. No one moved to strike from the record such accusations that reek of malice and fallacy. The leadership allowed the speech to be included in the records.
My point is this: striking off the perceived unparliamentary remarks is not the only option. The body, the leadership, can tolerate to hear negative remarks. It is not encouraged but we have a practice of allowing members to stand on the floor and criticize, sometimes viciously criticize, a fellow member.
Today, there seems to be this worrisome obsession to find “unparliamentary” words in our speeches. It might send a bad signal to other members, especially to new members, that privilege speeches about the past government is ok, as long as they are not unpleasant in the ears of the supporters of “She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-The-Plenary.”
I listened to the speeches of Bello and Casino, and I didn’t find any shocking expose, no new revelation. To use the words of Minority Representative Lagman, “bitin nga ako.” What they merely delivered was the sentiment of the people. Believe it or not, we have fellow Filipinos who believe that the previous government is guilty of spectacular crimes against the people. And maybe Representatives Bello and Casino think that the use of strong words to drive a point is needed. And the political situation today is such that colorful language must be used to remind us that “She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-The-Plenary.” must be held accountable.
I understnd where Bello and Casino are coming from, especially Representative Casino who was holed up here in Batasan for several months in 2005. They are both part of the movement which attempted year after year to force the Congress to probe the alleged wrongdoings of the past government. The problem is wala kasi tayong closure. Now that the “She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-The-Plenary.” is part of congress, would you expect the two to sing praises for her?
Lahat na lang ba ng negative remarks about “She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-The-Plenary.” ay dapat tanggalin? Should I expect to hear only pro-You-Know-Who speeches in the next 3 years? What if a supporter of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named stand on the floor and begin to enumerate the so-called achievements of the previous government? What if I also stand on the floor and move for the removal for what is to me offensive words? Would that be allowed by the leadership?
I hope the recent mania to scrutinize the speeches of anti-“She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named-In-The-Plenary.” solons is not a symptom of the reflection of our unwillingness to accept the truth about what happened in the past government.
It is tragic that we are more offended by the use of words that speak to truth, words that refer to acts of crime, rather than with the crimes itself.
My proposal is to give House members, especially members of the former opposition the freedom to speak and speak without fear of being censured about the past government. If it is founded on lies, it will not hold water. No one will believe them. Trust fellow members that they are capable of substantiating these allegations. Do not censor our speeches. Let the people judge. Let history be the judge. Do not purify and cleanse the records in the name of decorum.