Wednesday, February 07, 2007
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Blog Lecture No. 70: Disciplining Legislators

Just a brief lecture...

What does the law say about Congress disciplining its own members?

Section 16 (3), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution states:

(3) Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its Members, suspend or expel a Member. A penalty for suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed sixty days.

Sections 138 and 139 (Rule XX) of the House Rules says:

Section 138. Cause. - Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Ethics, the House may punish its Members for disorderly behavior.

Section 139. Votes Needed. - The House may censure or reprimand an erring Member with the concurrence of the majority of its Members. It may suspend or expel such erring Member with the concurrence of two-thirds (2/3) of all its Members, Provided, That a penalty of suspension shall not exceed sixty (60) days.

Sections 93 to 97 (Rule XXXIV) of the Senate Rules says:

SEC. 93. Acts and language which offend a Senator or any public institution shall be deemed unparliamentary.

SEC. 94. No Senator, under any circumstances, shall use offensive or improper language against another Senator or against any public institution.

SEC. 95. When a Senator, by word or deed, violates any Rule of the Senate, the President, motu proprio or at the instance of another Senator, may call him to order. The Senator concerned shall immediately take his seat if he happens to have the floor; and, in case the point of order raised has been sustained by the President or Presiding Officer, said Senator shall not continue speaking without the consent of the Senate. The motion permitting the Senator concerned to continue speaking shall be resolved without debate.

SEC. 96. When a Senator is called to order for using unparliamentary language, any other Senator may ask that the objectionable words be read for the information and decision of the Senate.

SEC. 97. Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, the Senate may punish any Member for disorderly behavior and, with the concurrence of two-thirds (2/3) of the entire membership, suspend or expel a Member. A penalty of suspension shall not exceed sixty (60) calendar days.

So how do you harass... I mean... discipline a legislator?

First, you file a complaint with the house where he is a member, be it the Senate or the House of Representatives. (Of course, you know I'm not referring to a particular case... heheheheheh!)

Then, it goes through the process prescribed by the Ethics Committee of whatever house of congress it is filed. Of course, there must be due process here but being sort of an administrative case, the standard of guilt is not beyond reasonable doubt (as in criminal cases) but merely substantial evidence.

Then the ethics committee makes a recommendation for consideration of plenary.

The plenary then decides to follow this recommendation, but only by 2/3 vote of the entire membership.

In the House of Representatives, the complainant needs at least 168 votes (based on 235 members, per the 2004 elections results, which may not be up to date because of death or resignation of some members) to suspend or expel a member.

In the Senate, the complainant needs at least 16 votes.

If the penalty is suspension, how long can it be?

Up to 60 calendar days. It cannot be more because this is a constitutional mandate.


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