MIRIAM WALKS OUT ON LATE SOLONS
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Commission on Appointments’ foreign affairs committee, walked out of her own committee hearing, because the members of the House of Representatives wanted her to wait for all other late members.
Santiago pointed out that some 50 nominees for various posts in the Department of Foreign Affairs had been waiting since 10:00 a.m., and it would be “irresponsible” to make them wait further.
“That would be a classic case of congressional arrogance,” Santiago fumed.
Santiago is known for her punctuality when she presides at committee hearings. Originally, the hearing was set at 10:00 a.m., but by 8:00 a.m., she called the committee secretary to tell the members that the hearing would start at 11:00 a.m., because of the heavy rains.
Santiago cited the Rules of the Commission on Appointments, which provides that during an investigation or hearing, the quorum may consist of the presence of the chair only, the vice-chair only, or three members.
Santiago has observed this quorum for some 10 years that she has been chair of the CA committee on foreign affairs.
However, Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas – who came later than 11:00 a.m. to the hearing –argued that the action on the nominees should be taken only after a committee meeting, which under the Rules requires a quorum of majority of the 18 members.
“I am only on partial recovery from lung cancer. I forced myself to come here, in order to avoid prejudice to some 50 nominees from the DFA. Now he wants all their majesties from the House of Representatives to come at their own sweet time and for all of us to wait at their pleasure. This is legislative abuse,” she said.
Santiago said that the issue is whether the CA Rules should be followed which state that in a public hearing on the DFA, the quorum consisted of only herself as the chair, just one vice-chair, or three members.
After she walked out, Santiago explained the legal issue to the Senate media, and answered questions from them.#
STATEMENT AFTER WALKOUT
I walked out, because of the intransigence and discourtesy shown to me by the House panel of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Commission on Appointments.
The Rules of the Commission on Appointments describes the quorum at a public hearing, thus: “The presence of the chair; or vice-chair; or at least three members shall be sufficient for conducting public hearings, and acting on motions and other incidents. (Art. 6, “Investigation of the Committees, Sec. 2).
Black’s Law Dictionary 9th edition 2009, defines a quorum as: “The minimum number who must be present for a deliberative assembly to legally transact business.”
Therefore, as committee chair, I am the quorum and possess the power to legally transact business. Today, the panel from the House of Representatives insisted that I should wait for the absentee members who, unknown to me, were reportedly attending a speech by Pres. Aquino.
If they were late, that was their privilege. But I humbly submit that those representatives do not have a right to cause further delay on the nominations of some 50 nominees from the DFA. The hearing was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., and yet at that very late hour, most of the House panel were still absent!
In law, there is a principle called estoppel by laches. This is the doctrine that denies relief to a person who has unreasonably delayed or been negligent in asserting a claim. The representative who raised a question of order tried to read from the Rules of the Commission on Appointments under Art. 4, entitled “Meetings of the Committee.”
Obviously, a “meeting” under Art. 4 is different from a “public hearing” under Art. 6. He tried to argue that the quorum should be a majority of the members.
I have news for him. I have been chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the CA for some 10 years. During all that time – nearly a decade – I conducted the hearings on the basis of the provision that my presence alone as chair is a quorum.
Therefore, if he questions my judgment, he is in estoppel by laches, a legal term that means “unreasonable delay in pursuing a claim.”
As a senator suffering from lung cancer stage 4, I purposely willed myself back to work, to show that cancer can be licked. In this spirit, since I am staring death in the face, I will no longer compromise, mollify, or appease those who do not obey the rules. Instead, I will speak truth to power. I will try to help run this government properly, to my last breath.