I wonder as to the great silence emerging from the Senate regarding the transgressions of Senator Sotto, to wit: (1) plagiarizing other people's copyrighted material, (2) using outdated material in a misleading way and out of context, (3) denying there was anything seriously wrong with what occurred, and (4) expressing absolutely zero remorse for the transgressions.
The Senate appears willing to let Senator Soto get away with it.
What do the laws say with regard to what the Senate OUGHT to be doing?
The Constitution of the Philippines:
- Rule X. The Committees.Sec. 13. (2) Committee on Ethics and Privileges. - Seven (7) members. All matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its Members.
It seems to me that the Senate is currently the laughing stock of the Philippines due to Senator Sotto's abuses and refusal to accept responsibility for them. Perhaps the Senate believes its integrity is enhanced by being the butt of so many jokes. We are all just comedians around here, eh? Clowns abound.
In 1989, two years after adoption of the Constitution, the Legislature promulgated and approved Republic Act 6713 which is the basic code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials. Here are some pertinent excerpts:
- REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6713. AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES, TO UPHOLD THE TIME-HONORED PRINCIPLE OF PUBLIC OFFICE BEING A PUBLIC TRUST, GRANTING INCENTIVES AND REWARDS FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE, ENUMERATING PROHIBITED ACTS AND TRANSACTIONS AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
- SECTION 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. — (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:
- (b) Professionalism. — Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill.. . .
- (c) Justness and sincerity. — Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. . . .
SECTION 11. Penalties. — (a) Any public official or employee, regardless of whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual, temporary, holdover, permanent or regular capacity, committing any violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six (6) months' salary or suspension not exceeding one (1) year, or removal depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency. If the violation is punishable by a heavier penalty under another law, he shall be prosecuted under the latter statute. Violations of Sections 7, 8 or 9 of this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.
The mechanisms are in place to address Senator Sotto's transgressions: (1) the Committee , which is both the investigative and judicial body, and (2) the Law. The Law is clear. Professionalism, good morals, good customs, public interest.
Senator Sotto does not define the law or his innocence based on what his representative counsel states. He is an interested party. The other interested party is the Public.
Who represents the Public on this matter?
Why is the Senate silent?
It is time to move this matter past Senator Sotto and his horrendous professional behavior and ask why the Institution that is responsible for writing laws is inclined not to enforce them? I'm not an attorney, but it seems to me that:
- Senator Sotto broke the law by failing to refrain from doing acts contrary to good morals and good customs.
- The Senate, by not fulfilling its obligations under the Constitution, is also breaking the law.
So here we have a fundamental reason as to why there is a wide scale collapse of respect for and obedience to laws across the beautiful Philippine landscape.
No discipline. No insistence on right over wrong . . . at the highest level . . . in one of the three co-equal branches of government.
But, hey, you don't care, Senators, I don't care!
Watching the clowns. It's more fun in the Philippines!