YEAR 2016 is still far off, yet there are at least two senators engaged in a race against each other—a race to the earth’s core that is, with how they constantly try to outdo each other in muckraking.

Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile’s over-hyped feud is a clear reflection of the present Philippine Congress: a disastrous circus. As senior members of the Senate, they’re expected to set a good example to the younger lawmakers, but it is more apparent now that they both need to be pacified.

While the two’s bickering has been known since long ago, things got “interesting” when Santiago insinuated—later on expressly said—that Enrile was the mastermind of the “P10-billion pork barrel scam,” during a Senate hearing in which Janet Lim Napoles was summoned for questioning. This earned the feisty senator applause from the legion of her “netizen” fans, whom she seems so proud of (when many of them lack understanding of the real issues).

By no means Enrile let her have the last laugh. In a privilege speech last November 27, the senior senator threw volleys against Santiago, most of which were ad hominem statements irrelevant to the pork barrel scam issue. Reacting to Santiago’s brandishing of her positions in the judiciary, Enrile mocked her 78-percent average grade in the Bar Exams as if it were a measure of a lawyer’s worth. Commentators have often said that the best credentials of lawyers would always be their reputation. And despite my reservations against her, she is indeed a lawyer of good reputation, having climbed her way up.

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But Santiago was keen to go even lower than Enrile had gone as she replied to the latter in another privilege speech last Dec. 4. It was ironic that Santiago cried foul over Enrile’s ad hominem attacks when she herself employed such tactics in the same speech, accusing him of being a “psychopathic hypersexualized serial womanizer,” among others.

Their cheap tirades against one another only degrades the image of the government—as if it could not be any more filthy.

It is also quite telling how the two senators prefer to use taxpayer’s money in airing their sentiments in privilege speeches when there are other means available such as press briefings or writings. A privilege speech is a parliamentary privilege enjoyed by a Congress member, in which a lawmaker cannot be prosecuted for anything he or she says in a legislative session, the purpose of which is to enable them to exercise their duties without fear of prosecution.

Apparently, they would rather hide in the blanket of parliamentary immunity to avoid criminal prosecution for their barbed-wire exchanges because it is obvious that there is an intent from the both of them to malign each other—which is punishable under the penal code. Interesting to note that even the Supreme Court recognized the power of parliamentary immunity when it exonerated Santiago after saying “I spit on the face of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban” and called the high court’s justices “idiots” in the case of Pobre vs. Defensor-Santiago (591 SCRA 1). She was protected by immunity as the words were said in a privilege speech. Had those words been uttered under normal circumstances, she would have been either suspended or disbarred as a lawyer.

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Parliamentary immunity was meant to protect lawmakers from undue harrassment that may disrupt them in the exercise of their duties, but Enrile and Santiagor are giving people the idea that privilege speeches are avenues for lawmakers to to indulge in partisan character assassination of one another at the cost of taxpayers’ money.

At this point, one can only wonder: has either of them reached the earth’s core yet?

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