Senate to draft code of ethics amid plagiarism accusations

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Nov 14 2012 11:33 AM | Updated as of Nov 14 2012 07:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday said a code of ethics for members of the Senate will soon be drafted.

Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Ethics and Privileges Committee, issued this statement following the controversy over the plagiarism complaint lodged against Sen. Vicente Sotto III.

A group of academicians and bloggers on Tuesday filed an ethics complaint against Sotto before the Senate for allegedly violating ethical standards by plagiarizing the works and speeches of several people, including that of the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, in his speeches assailing the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

"May sunod-sunod kaming hearing in the next two weeks. Next week to finish the rules and then the week after para kung ano man ang nakabinbin sa committee maumpisahan na," Cayetano told dzMM.

He said the lack of quorum has hampered the passage of the code. "Last na po ito, kasi ilang beses na akong nagbigay ng notice na ipa-finalize na ang rules eh nagkaka-problema lang in the past. This time with or without their attendance or comment, ipapasa na namin ang rules next week."

Cayetano said the Senate ethics committee must soon discuss the ethics complaints lodged against several senators, not just Sotto, in order that they will not be accused of protecting each other.

"On one hand, hindi pwedeng mag-away-away ang mga senador kasi maaapektuhan naman ang legislation. On the other hand, kung hindi mo pagaganahin 'yung committee at hindi ka maghe-hearing, sasabihin ng mga tao, 'Hindi ka nga pwede magdemanda sa labas, may parliamentary immunity ka nga, baka kung magpo-protektahan kayo dyan...[ang sasabihin] above the law kayo, law makers kayo pero kayo ang sumisira sa batas,'" he said.

Cayetano said at present, the ethics committee chairman is tasked to handle the preliminary determination of a complaint. He said he would rather have the seven members of the committee decide on sensitive matters.

'Sotto not totally immune'

Sotto, who was backed by no less than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, earlier said he is protected by the constitution.

Sotto said under Article 6, section 11, lawmakers are immune from any liability for whatever they say while Congress is in session.

Cayetano, however, believes this immunity is only effective outside the halls of Congress. "'Pag kinasuhan mo ang senador o congressman at may sesyon kami, hindi mo pwedeng arestuhin. Pero 'pag wala nang sesyon, pwede mo nang arestuhin."

"Protected ka against the libel law and any other laws outside the Senate…Halimbawa may nasabi ako tungkol sa iyo, kung hindi maganda, hindi mo ako pwedeng kasuhan ng libel sa labas… pero sa loob, sa ethics committee pwede."

Cayetano said the punishment versus an erring senator ranges from a simple reprimand to a possible expulsion.

However, Cayetano said votes of three-fourths of the members of the Senate are needed for a senator to be expelled.

Cayetano is the brother of Senator Pia Cayetano, one of the staunchest supporters of the RH bill in the Senate.