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I am not your student and you are not my proctor.

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“Can a senator be compelled to be interpellated by his peers after delivering a privilege speech?”

The recurring question was again raised after a friction between Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and several of his colleagues in the Senate to respond to questions after delivering a scathing criticism on various agencies for the delayed release of sickness and death compensation to health workers infected with the coronavirus disease (Covid) sometime last year.

Lawyer Aluino Tolentino, retired Senate executive director, said Go knows more of the Senate rules than the members of the chamber who have tried to compel him to be questioned.

Go, in refusing to be subjected to an inquiry, told the more senior Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, “I am not your student and you are not my proctor.”

Drilon was backed up by other senators in cajoling Go to give way to being effectively cross-examined. Drilon asked whether not taking questions after privilege speeches is the “new normal” as Go continued to refuse to be subjected to a grilling.

After Go’s speech, Drilon indicated, “We commend the gentleman from Davao for taking the privilege hour to call the attention of the bureaucracy in its neglect of the frontliners. But the good gentleman has said that he will not take questions.”

Drilon acknowledged senators are entitled to such privilege, but he said the move is not in accordance with the practice of the chamber. Go was not predisposed to taking questions after his privilege speeches.

“I just want to know, however, if this is the new normal that we have, Mr. President, not allowing interpellations on the floor. In an effort to thresh out or strengthen the positions that we would take on national issues, I’m placing that on the floor,” Drilon said.

“It is the prerogative of the senators, but indeed, it was never the practice not to entertain any question every time you rise on the floor,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III responded in support of Drilon.

The Senate President then indicated that Go was “well advised” to allow inquiries from other senators next time.

Sotto, in further buttressing Drilon, responded to the minority leader’s asking Go on whether refusing to entertain questions being the “new normal” said, “I don’t think it is. Definitely not.”

In response, Go said Drilon’s observation was “well noted but it depends on the issue, Mr. President, if I’m willing to be interpellated. It’s my privilege… Remember that we are colleagues here. We are elected by the people. We are all senators.”

The intent of the senators who were after Go was very suspicious since no discussion was held on Go’s speech on health workers’ compensation.

“The Senate President should be forgiven since he is not a lawyer. Interpellation is not a right but a privilege. I think Senator Go was correct when he refused interpellation. No senator has a right to interpellate anybody and no senator can force anyone to yield to an interpellation,” Tolentino said citing jurisprudence.

“On 8 April 1959, when the late Senator Rogelio de la Rosa delivered a speech, he refused to be interpellated and no senator made any comment because they knew the rules, especially the unwritten rules. I think our senators now should review the rules, especially Senators Sotto, (Migz) Zubiri and Drilon,” Tolentino urged.

The former Senate executive said Zubiri should know the rules as majority leader.

“Go was correct. All senators are co-equal. They are only temporary public servants, not masters or rulers,” Tolentino noted.

Apparently, the rule which indicated that posing questions to a peer during a proceeding is a privilege and not a right was meant to discourage grandstanding that happens a lot in the highly-charged chamber.

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