Dispatch from Crame No. 160: (Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s Statement on call to expel Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV at the Senate of the Philippines Senate of the Philippines)

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Our democracy is under attack.

The looming impeachment of the Chief Justice, the threats to impeach the Ombudsman, the allotment of P1,000 budget for the CHR by the House of Representatives, the plot to file cases against Senator Risa Hontiveros, the threat to file charges against Bishop Ambo David, the removal from Senate protective custody of witnesses who dare bring up allegations of misdeeds against the First Family, the efforts to remove elected officials, including barangay officials to be replaced by presidential appointment – are all acts by which the pillars of our democracy are being toppled over and stomped into the ground.

With every passing day, more and more blows are being struck against our democratic way of life. That these developments seem to be accelerating lately should come as no surprise: not after a huge shipment of shabu from China was discovered. Not after revelations of the possible smuggling and illegal drug trade links of members of the First Family have emerged.

Those who want to obscure and bury the truth have to act, and they have to act FAST.

I, therefore, cannot help situate the efforts to expel Senator Trillanes in this context.

How did this row start in the first place? When Sen. Trillanes moved to have the First Son and Son-in-Law to appear before the Senate to answer questions regarding their alleged involvement in the shabu shipment.

What objectionable actions did Sen. Trillanes make, except to give voice to his observations as a member of the Senate and a representative of the Filipino people, i.e., that the refusal to even summon members of the First Family, who have been implicated by the testimony of a witness, is inconsistent with the Blue Ribbon Committee’s mandate. If that is unparliamentary conduct, then I guess some people’s conception of parliamentary conduct involves deference to interests other than the truth.

That Sen. Gordon should not only seek to have Sen. Trillanes be punished, but in fact expelled, should be enough to show what is really at stake. If Sen. Gordon’s own cited precedents show that the act of a Senator of assaulting a colleague only merited suspension, why the extreme measure? Is his ego so fragile that bruising it merits the kind of retribution that wasn’t even warranted when another Senator’s very person was physically assaulted?

The truth is this: Sen. Trillanes’s expulsion is not about punishing so-called “unparliamentary conduct”, but about silencing dissent.

If a Senator is going to be expelled for uttering his observations as to the implications of a Senate Committee’s refusal to act – what kind of Senate are we even talking about?

Ironically, Sen. Gordon himself got it right. What we will have is a mob. Mob rule: where the majority can silence the voice of dissent, the voice of the minority; and, with it, can drive another nail into the coffin of our democracy.

The day the Senate expels a Senator for alleged acts that are not only in relation to the discharge of his duty as a member of the Senate, but whose purported gravity, in any case, comes nowhere near the gravity of other acts that have merited lesser penalty, is the day that the Senate becomes a mob.

That will also be the day when thousands of cases of EJKs would no longer be our biggest concern. Imagine that: rampant, systematic cold-blooded murders being perpetrated against our own people – even victimizing our children – would no longer be the most chilling problem we now face. Because even such heinous crimes pale before the prospect of the murder of our democracy.

If thousands of people are dying today, imagine how many more will die without even the semblance of democracy? It might be Kian, Carl, “Kulot” and thousand others yesterday; but it could be any one of you, your children, and your loved ones tomorrow. Without the CHR, without an independent Ombudsman, Judiciary and Legislature – who will protect you? ###

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