On Oct. 17, 2018, House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Arroyo spoke before the delegates to the 139th International Parliamentary Union (IPU) General Assembly at the Centre for International Conference Geneve in Geneva, Switzerland. Mrs. Arroyo was head of the Philippine delegation to the IPU assembly.
Five days later, Mrs. Arroyo said she would ask the Senate to withdraw from the IPU over the latter’s supposed interference in the country’s judicial system. The IPU had expressed an intention to visit the country to determine the “political persecution” of opposition Senators Leila M. de Lima and Antonio F. Trillanes IV.
In reaction to the Speaker’s proposal, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, who was a member of the Philippine delegation to the assembly, released this statement:
“House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should mind her own and we will mind our own.
“I oppose the proposal of Arroyo that we withdraw from the IPU just because this global body of parliamentarians expressed its concern over the political persecution of our fellow Senators Leila de Lima and Sonny Trillanes.
“Arroyo’s proposal is despairing, defeatist and will be seen by the world as a tacit admission that indeed critical lawmakers are being persecuted under the Duterte administration.
“It is folly for Speaker Arroyo to suggest that the IPU should be punished for performing its mandate to protect fellow members of the legislature from abusive and over-reaching tendencies of certain officials of the executive.
“I speak as a former chairman of the IPU Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
“The respect for human rights, not only of members of Parliament, but of ordinary citizens, is a basic pillar of democracy. We must all do our share to uphold civil and human rights as well as the rule of law, both here and abroad.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson, another member of the Philippine delegation, also expressed opposition to Mrs. Arroyo’s plan. Said he: “First, Speaker Arroyo’s recommendation is based on the wrong premise. The IPU has yet to act on its Human Rights Committee’s recommendation to the IPU Governing Council. Having said that, it is premature, if at all, to denounce the IPU as a whole, much less withdraw membership from the body.
“Second, by withdrawing, it would imply that the Philippine Senate acknowledges the political persecution of opposition senators.
“Contrarily, the recent resolution of Sen. Trillanes’ coup d’etat case by the Makati RTC Branch 148 is proof enough that the judicial process works in our country, and that the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative is evident and clear.
“Third, it is the Senate, not the House of Representatives, that is a member of the IPU, so I’m not sure where Speaker Arroyo is coming from.”
The IPU is a global organization of national parliamentarians from 178 member states. It was established in 1889 by Frederic Passy of France and William Randal Cremer of United Kingdom. Its initial objective was the arbitration of conflicts. It was instrumental in the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Its mission has evolved through the years towards the promotion of democracy, equality, human rights, development and peace. Through inter-parliamentary dialogue, the members work together for positive change, both in their own countries and at international level. It was originally for individual parliamentarians but has since transformed into an organization of the parliaments of sovereign states.
It is the duty of the members of the IPU to submit the resolutions of the IPU within their respective parliament, in the most appropriate form; to communicate them to the government; to stimulate their implementation and to inform the IPU Secretariat, as often and fully as possible, particularly in its annual reports, as to the steps taken and the results obtained. The IPU Assembly (formerly known as the Inter-Parliamentary Conference) is the principal statutory body that expresses the views of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on political issues.
When the Philippine Senate applied for membership in the IPU and was accepted, it took cognizance of that mission and agreed to perform the stated duty of a member. It is very clear from the IPU’s mission that it has the prerogative to look into possible violation of the human rights of Senators de Lima and Trillanes who are members of the Philippine Senate which is a member organization of IPU. And the IPU states that it is the duty of the member, in this case the Philippine Senate, to submit the IPU resolution to the government.
It is wrong for Mrs. Arroyo to accuse the IPU of interfering in the judicial system of the country. In the first place, what the IPU wants to look into is the political persecution of Senators De Lima and Trillanes. As our judiciary is supposed to be apolitical, it cannot be the persecutor. Or has Mrs. Arroyo tacitly admitted that our judiciary is much politicized? Pundits say she did politicize the Supreme Court.
Also, she did not consider herself meddling into the internal affairs of member parliaments when in her speech before the general assembly she told the delegates that in order for the world to attain peace and cope in the age of innovation and technology, focus must be set towards encouraging more youth in science and engineering courses. Nobody accused her of meddling into the internal affairs of member parliaments because what she urged is in accordance with the IPU mission of development.
But Mrs. Arroyo did meddle into the affairs of a body of which she is not a member. As Sen. Lacson has said, it is the Senate, not the House of Representatives, that is a member of the IPU. She is Speaker of the House of Representatives. She has no business telling the Senate to withdraw from the IPU. Maybe she thinks as Speaker she is the prime minister.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.