All my amendments to the budget were adopted. The first is that there should be a new oversight committee on the road tax. Second is that there should be 200 more rubber boats just in case of floods. The third is that we will reduce the Supreme Court budget to the 2009 level because the Senate, on my recommendation, wants to express the sense of the Senate of disappointment over the decision of the 3rd Division of the Supreme Court over the disbarment case against me.
In that decision, the five justices said “Yes, she has the right to parliamentary immunity, she cannot be held liable in any other place,’’ meaning to say if the senators do not want to punish me, then no one else can. But it took eight pages to reprimand me, so the conclusion does not follow the premise. In administrative law, a reprimand is already a disciplinary measure, so in effect the 3rd Division of the Supreme Court violated the Constitution. We all know that if there is a question of constitutionality, it is the Supreme Court who has the last word. The Congress cannot overrule the Supreme Court in a decided case. But Congress can exercise the power of the purse to send a message to the Supreme Court. So by cutting down its budget, we are in effect sending a message to the Supreme Court we will continue to use the power of the purse to counterbalance the Supreme Court when we think that it has committed an unjust act. The senators are very perturbed that I was held to account for a privilege speech because we all know since the very beginning that only the senators themselves can hold a senator liable for anything he/she says here. So they were very surprised since I did not raise a protest immediately after what happened last August when I received a copy of the decision.
The case against me was dismissed but it reprimanded me for eight long pages. One newspaper even tried sensationalist tactics to use it in a headline. But that was erroneous and misleading because in the first place I was not reprimanded by the entire Supreme Court, only a division, and it did not actually use the word ‘reprimand’ but the language between the lines posed that implicit message. So the senators are very concerned that this could be the beginning of what ultimately be a creeping deconstitutionalization of our right to parliamentary immunity here.
I told them also that the basis for my privilege speech is the fact that although the notices for application for the post of Chief Justice did not specify that only incumbent justices could apply, and despite the fact that it was the Supreme Court that has summoned me to a so-called interview. I was made to sit in a holding room and then eventually a member of the Judicial Bar Council was delegated to tell me that, first, I have to waive the interview because I was the only one present.. So I waited, and after that the JBC announced the decision that I was disqualified even from being considered because I was not an incumbent, because the position of Chief Justice should only be occupied by an incumbent. That also gave the senators a shock because there is constitutional or statutory authority for claiming that when the position of Chief Justice is vacant, only the incumbents can be considered, since the JBC must first submit three recommendations to the president before she can issue an appointment. So that is the shocking feature of that revelation and I think that convinced the senators, that they had to do something to send a message to the Supreme Court.
*Sen. Santiago recommended that P161.088 million be cut from the budget of the Supreme Court.