The Senate Filibuster

Article excerpt

FOR a few days, Senator Serge Osmena had conducted a series of speeches known in American legislative practice as a filibuster. This action was resorted to supposedly as a means to stop the appointment of Senate President Pro Tempore Manuel Villar as chairman of both the Committees on Agriculture and Food, and of Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies; with Majority Leader Loren L. Legarda as concurrent Chairperson of the Committee on Accounts.

As a consequence of this time - honored legislative practice, which is a legitimate parliamentary tactic employed by the minority in any legislative body, Senator Osmena III was criticized as irresponsible and the Senate a useless institution.

The art of the filibuster is a tactic Philippine senators borrowed from their American counterparts. This practice actually was common in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate until the House got fedup with it and eventually adopted the one-hour rule. Today, it is only the US Senate which resorts to this practice. Historically, the first user of this long-winded speech within the legislative context was a congressman, John McQueen of North Carolina in 1858. Although the term, however, dates back only to 1858, there is evidence that talkathons date back to the US Continental Congress of 1789.

Etymologically, the term has an odd and interesting history. It begun as a Dutch word, vribuiter, freebooter, then came into English by way of the French word filibustier, then Spanish where it became filibustero. Jose Rizal, titled his second novel El Filibusterismo, to describe his hero Simon, a filibustero whose cause was to topple the Spanish regime, but in the end died asking the youth "to shed generously their blood, their illusions and their enthusiasm for the welfare of our native land."

In legislative term therefore, to filibuster is a legislative revolution or insurgency with the use of oratory. …