Congress and congressmen afraid of prosecution if they play the Gloriagate tapes in session?
This institution has never been afraid of a “mere” executive department. And these are the three reasons why:
1. Parliamentary Immunity
Article VI of the 1987 Constitution says:
Section 11. A Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session. No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof.
Guess what it the maximum penalty is for violation of Republic Act No. 4200?
You may say, Congress is in recess right now. Then the second sentence of the provision I cited above comes into play. They are still immune.
This privilege was granted to the Legislative Department precisely to protect its members from outside pressures like threats of prosecution, so they can freely voice out their concerns–a key element in the drafting of laws.
So why be afraid of playing the tapes, assuming it’s illegal to do so in the first place?
2. Power of the purse
That same article in the 1987 Constitution says:
Section 24. All appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of public debt, bills of local application, and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.
Believe me, I have worked in government long enough to know how Congress operates during budget season. Congress becomes the ultimate power tripper. It makes department secretaries wait until the wee hours of the morning, only to send them home and call them back the next day and the next day and the next just to get each agency’s budget allocation approved.
Its individual members complain to department secretaries, “What has your department done for my constituency?” If the answer is wrong, the department’s budget suffers, its deliberations deferred or worse, gets reduced to one peso.
Also, the department secretary they are “afraid” used to be one of them, hence know how Congress operates…Surely, he will not dare incur the wrath of any member of Congress.
3. Commission on Appointments
Portions of Section 10, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution say:
(3) The President shall nominate and with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, shall appoint the heads of the executive departments and bureaus, officers of the Army from the rank of colonel, of the Navy and Air Forces from the rank of captain or commander, and all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and those whom he may be authorized by law to appoint; but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of inferior officers, in the President alone, in the courts, or in the heads of departments.
(4) The President shall have the power to make appointments during the recess of the Congress, but such appointments shall be effective only until disapproval by the Commission on Appointments or until the next adjournment of the Congress.
And you know who comprises the Commission on Appointments?
Section 12 of Article VI gives us the answer:
Section 12. There shall be a Commission on Appointments consisting of twelve Senators and twelve Members of the House of Representatives, elected by each House, respectively, on the basis of proportional representation of the political parties therein. The president of the Senate shall be the Chairman ex officio of the Commission, but shall not vote except in case of tie.
The department secretary they are “afraid” of has not even passed through the appointments process. Hence, it should be this particular department secretary that should be afraid of them and not the other way around!
So with all these powers, why be afraid of the big bad D-O-G? And why only now?