'Tinio breached Congress protocol, trust in impeach meeting'
MANILA, Philippines – Congressmen hit a party-list colleague on Tuesday, August 12, for leaking to the media the discusssions made in an executive session and used it as evidence in the fourth impeachment complaint filed against President Benigno Aquino III.
Lawmakers who are allied with the administration said ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, one of the complainants in the impeachment case, breached protocols and trust by recording and releasing details of an August 4 executive session that was supposed to be off the record and confidential.
During the executive session, legislators asked Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan how they can be guaranteed access to the funds realigned to CHED from the abolished Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for their scholars.
An executive session is usually called during committee hearings when the issue being discussed is either controversial or sensitive. It is closed to the media and the public.
Tinio, however, released to media the audio file and transcript of the executive session with Licuanan, and cited it as evidence in the fourth impeachment complaint filed against the President by mostly leftist groups. The latest complaint focused on the "hidden pork barrel" in the proposed budget.
Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab, chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, said the party-list congressman's action has placed the integrity of the executive session in question.
"Not only in that meeting but in all other meetings. There are people we cannot trust anymore," Ungab said.
Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo said there was "a sense of betrayal of the entire process" in what Tinio did.
"There is a venue for them to bring out things. If there are things taken in an executive session that you feel like you are aggrieved, you can appeal and say, 'We have to disclose this to the public.' There is a process provided and that process was not followed. Because otherwise, what is the sanctity of an executive session?" Quimbo said.
Tinio earlier said lawmakers cannot use the law, as well as the mechanism of the executive session, to justify banning the release of the audio recordings and the transcript since the meeting was conducted in their capacity as public officials.
Besides, Tinio told reporters, the recording also shows proof that a wrongdoing was committed.
Won't bother with ethics complaint
Quimbo, however, denied that the executive session was used to conceal information from the public.
"That is his interpretation. If that is the purpose, bakit siya isasama doon e number one sumbungero siya (he is the number one tattletale)? There was no such purpose," Quimbo said.
Quimbo also chided Tinio for being guilty of the same wrongdoing that they are accusing Aquino of.
"They always accuse the President of being a hypocrite. They are justifying a complete breach of our rules for negotiating its good. What is that? The rule for the President is different for them? They are saying that the President can't be excused because the intention was good but the methods were wrong? Don't they always say, 'Do good intentions justify the violation of the Constitution?' That's what they repeatedly say against the President and now they're doing the same thing," Quimbo said.
But Quimbo said he is not in favor of filing an ethics complaint against Tinio. It will only "dignify" a "really undignified act," he said.
Earlier, Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe said their party-list coalition in the House is planning to file an ethics complaint against Tinio for possibly violating the Anti-Wiretapping Law, which prohibits any individual from recording any private communication without the other party’s consent.
Bayan Muna defends Tinio
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, one of Tinio's allies in the Makabayan Coalition in the House, defended Tinio and questioned why an executive session was called for the CHED hearing in the first place.
“Representative Tinio did not violate the wiretapping law because the hearings he recorded were conducted by public officials discussing the allocation of public funds in a public venue. The wiretapping law only pertains to a private conversation. The claim that an executive session is akin to a private conversation is bereft of any legal basis," Colmenares said.
"Under Section 7 of the rules of the House on inquiries in aid of legislation, an executive session is limited to cases that involves threats to national security. There is no way that a hearing on CHED scholarships can threaten national security. Additionally, executive sessions cannot be used to commit or cover up a crime,” he added.
Colmenares said the threat of invoking the anti-wiretapping law against Tinio was the same method used by former President and incumbent Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to silence those who divulged the "Hello Garci" tapes during the 2004 elections. The tapes were eventually released to the public.
“President Arroyo used the same tactic of threatening those who exposed the electoral fraud in 2004 with the anti wiretapping law. What matters is the people support Representative Tinio for exposing PDAF in the 2014 budget because pork barrel stole billions of public funds that could have gone to social services for the people," he said. – Rappler.com