Miriam wants gadget etiquette in Senate sessions

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed Senate Resolution No. 228, recommending the Senate to revise and update its rules on the decorum of its members and guests regarding the use of electronic devices during Senate sessions and committee hearings.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is seen playing Bejeweled while the Senate is in session (Credit: GMAnewsonline)

The senator’s recommendation came after media reports of legislators here and abroad getting caught playing mobile games during committee hearings.

Local news report earlier spotted Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile playing “Bejeweled” in his iPad, while The Washington Post snapped a photo of Arizona senator John McCain playing poker on his iPhone while a crucial Senate session on US strike on Syria was being held.

“These gadgets can cause disruption and distraction during sessions and committee hearings. Impairing decorum due to their abuse and misuse can be considered unparliamentary acts,” she warned.

Santiago, while heeding the call of her colleagues towards a “paperless” Senate, called for an immediate discussion to amend the Senate Rules on the scope and limitations of the use of electronic and mobile devices by members of the Upper Chamber.

“The Senate Rules should accommodate for the technologically determined changes in society, in this case the prevalent use of gadgets in everyday life. Despite troubling times for the Senate as an institution, the Senate should always maintain and observe a level of decorum this high office deserves,” the senator said.

Santiago is known to be strict about the use of handheld gadgets and electronic devices whenever she presides over public hearings by asking colleagues and guests to turn off or put their phones on silent.

The senator also pointed out in her resolution a global trend of legislatures changing their internal rules to prohibit or limit the use of hand-held electronic devices in their chambers.

The French National Assembly, for example, allows the use of these devices in their chambers except during debates. The legislatures of Ireland and Greece do not allow electronic devices in their plenary hall. New Zealand legislative chamber prohibits the use of use of mobile phones, and the one in Finland prohibits laptop computers.

Other legislatures, like the United States House of Representatives and the Parliament of United Kingdom, allow the use of electronic and mobile devices as long as long as they do not impair decorum.

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