According to my old copy of the Rules of the Senate, which presumably are still the rules of the Senate, “a Senator may…request for and avail of the privilege to speak for one hour on any matter of public interest.”
And that is exactly what Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. did on Monday, June 9.
The privilege speech called on President Benigno Aquino III to focus the last years of his term on solving the country’s problems and to make that his legacy.
Lead this country not with hatred but with love. Lead the country towards unity and not partisanship. Push our nation’s interest and not political agenda,
Revilla said before launching into a long list of thank yous and well wishes to friends and colleagues, and God, who was “first on [his] list.”
For a few tense minutes, it seemed like the senator was getting ready to resign as Juan Miguel Zubiri did in 2011.
An audio-visual presentation that played after his speech helped fuel expectations, making Revilla’s “Thank you, Mr. President” at the end of the presentation — in the words of a veteran Senate reporter — as anticlimactic as opening a McDonald’s Happy Meal and not finding a toy inside.
The speech, understandably, fueled rage on social media for the next hour or so.
But policy analyst and political strategist Ma. Lourdes Tiquia had this to say about it:
Wouldn’t ridicule 20M voters of @senbongrevilla. He was no. 2 in ’04 n no. 1 in ’10. Song was not 4 u, right? oh, u r better than them?
— Malou Tiquia (@maltiq) June 9, 2014
If the song wasn’t for me, who was it for? And if not for me, and therefore presumably for the 20 million who voted for him, was it still a matter of public interest?
The Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, over which he has been charged with plunder and graft, is a matter of public interest, surely, but can the same be said of that speech that skirted the issue? We were expecting answers and action, not acknowledgements and an AVP.
In a later tweet, Tiquia said that she does “not agree with the singing but there is nothing under the Rules of the Senate that prevents a member from doing so.”
That is true, there is nothing about singing in the Rules of the Senate except that bit about the national anthem being sung on Mondays.
Our legislators, in their wisdom, probably did not foresee the need to mention singing at all, presuming wrongly that no singing would be done on the Senate floor.
But Tiquia is right in that it was a privilege speech, and if former senator Mar Roxas can hand out garlands of garlic while Senate is in session and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago can hurl the harshest (but also the most clever) of insults at everyone else, then Senator Revilla can certainly sing if he wants to.
It’s his privilege, from privilegium or private law. A law just for them. And, as Tiquia inadvertently reminds us, we are not better than them.