HE didn’t need a second more to express his disgust over what he heard was a slur against his wife.

Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II earned the favor of many women, and men, who witnessed his quick reaction to a reckless statement made by a fellow member of the upper chamber of Congress.

It was at the height of the discourse at the Senate floor over the corruption report against Sen. Manuel Villar when Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. fired a broadside against Roxas’s objections to questionable insertions into a budget item.

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Villar was the subject of a report of the Senate committee of the whole that outlined his alleged unethical conduct for inserting an additional P200-million allocation in the 2008 national budget for the construction of a road that resulted in an increase in the value of his real estate properties in the affected areas.

But Villar’s allies said other senators like those in the opposition have made their own budget insertions.

To this, Roxas said, “I say no. I had no insertion on any matter. In fact, I have no insertion, period. Because we’re in the minority. Let alone an insertion for a road to pass through any such property.”

Senator Pimentel then retorted, “Well, well, I am sure that after your marriage, you had some insertions. But that may be different.”

Roxas recently married his long-time girlfriend, broadcaster Korina Sanchez.

Roxas immediately stood up and demanded that such a statement of Pimentel be removed from the transcript of that session. Pimentel agreed that the statement be deleted from the records.

But the insult by Pimentel and the quick response of Roxas were already etched in the minds of those who witnessed the exchange. Pimentel only showed that he was a bully while Roxas exemplified the Filipino man ready and quick to defend the honor of his life partner.

Such a comment by Pimentel should have been reserved to conversations during a guys’ night out when friendly ears would know that a joke was a joke but not on the Senate floor when statements were recorded and after the debate had turned heated.

I’m not exactly a fan of Roxas’s wife, Korina Sanchez, but a slight against a woman is a slight against a woman, multiplied over because this was stated on what should have been hallowed grounds.

Many who have witnessed or listened to the exchange have been shocked by how low a senator can go to defend an ally. This makes paying close attention to the kind of senators we elect more important than any clamor to find a new chief justice of the Supreme Court before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down.

There is this chatter about rushing the appointment of a new chief justice for fear of a power vacuum when Reynato Puno retires on May 17. But the change in chief justice is not urgent.

The replacement of senators undeserving of their posts is scheduled. The date is May 10, 2010.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)