At least two Facebook fan pages devoted to President Rodrigo Duterte shared an online report about how Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was suspended for six months for his conduct during a Senate hearing.
The headline of the report read “Breaking! Trillanes sinuspende ng anim na buwan bilang parusa sa walang tigil na kabastosan sa Senado.”
Fan pages “Presidente Duterte Astig Supporters” and “Pres. Duterte ang Agila ng Davao” shared the report, with the followers of the former sharing the report over 3,000 times since it was posted on September 4.
The report, carried by the blog pinasnews.info, actually contained a 17-minute long YouTube video without a text report.
The YouTube clip showed losing senatorial bet Greco Belgica interviewing Senator Vicente Sotto III over the phone in his dzRH TV program “Ireklamo Kay Greco” about Trillanes’ conduct in the Senate, particularly his recent clash with Senator Richard Gordon during the Senate drug smuggling probe last week. Among the topics they discussed was the ethics complaint that Gordon was then contemplating on filing against Trillanes, who called the Senate blue ribbon committee “Comite de absuelto” and what possible punishments are in store for those who will be found unethical by the Senate.
As discussed by Sotto in Belgica’s program, the penalties that a senator can recommend for a fellow senator for disorderly behavior include reprimand, suspension for a maximum of six months, or expulsion from the Senate. It all depends on the kind of behavior the senator displayed that led to the complaint filed against him or her.
According to the Rules of the Senate, “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.”
The YouTube video was put up in the early morning of September 4, but Senator Gordon was only able to formally file an ethics complaint against Trillanes at 7:44pm on the said date before the Senate ethics committee. It was received by Committee Secretary Gemma Genoveva Tanpiengco.
“This complaint against the continuous, unabated, unparliamentary acts, language, and conduct of Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, which is causing damage to the Senate and to the people and, therefore, is of primordial importance,” Gordon said in his complaint.
“This case is neither frivolous nor is it being filed out of spite. This is about maintaining the dignity of the Senate,” he added.
Gordon also said that his complaint is already supported by 14 senators, a claim that was confirmed by Sotto, the chairman of the Senate ethics committee.
Commenting on the complaint filed against him, Trillanes described Gordon’s claim about the backing of other senators as speculation.
“Tignan natin. It will be a long process and I am confident, sabi ko nga, na wala akong ginawang anything improper, anything unparliamentary. So it’s premature for him to say kung sino ‘yung mga susuporta sa kanya dahil mahabang proseso ‘yan,” Trillanes told reporters.
“Mas marami tayong nakitang karumal-dumal na ginagawa ng iba but walang ganyan so sige, naiintindihan ko ‘yung political game nila,” he said.
Trillanes said he is ready to face the ethics complaint.
“Ngayon inaantay ko lang, kapag dumating ‘yan haharapin ko ‘yan and I will not let it be a distraction sa bigger issue na si (Davao City Vice Mayor) Paolo Duterte at (presidential son-in-law) Mans Carpio ay naiinvolve dito sa shabu shipment na ito at sa smuggling sa Customs,” he added.
So while there was mention of a six-month long suspension in the video, depending on the recommendation of the Senate ethics committee against a senator’s disorderly behavior, it is not true that the committee has already voted on suspending Trillanes for six months. It’s fake news born out of a misleading headline. Gordon has just filed the complaint formally in the evening of September 4 so the Senate ethics committee has not ruled on anything yet regarding the complaint. And as Trillanes has said, it is going to be a long process.
Unfortunately, fake news prevailed, with netizens rejoicing over this false story about Trillanes’ suspension from the Senate.
In September 2016, Rappler came out with a report on how there were only two senators who were censured after facing an ethical complaint in almost 30 years. Only senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Heherson Alvarez were punished in recent history. Former Senator Manuel Villar was also recommended for censure over the C5 extension project controversy, but it only ended on paper due to the lack of quorum that led to the chamber’s failure to act on the motion.