Press Release
August 1, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is still entitled to the rights that are legally allowable to him - as a citizen and as an elected senator - despite a recent Supreme Court decision rejecting his petition to be allowed to perform his legislative functions.

Pimentel disputed the interpretation made by some administration senators that Trillanes may now be considered a "non-member" of the Senate as a consequence of the SC ruling.

He cautioned his colleagues against making any premature judgment or biased opinion on the status of Trillanes insofar as his membership in the Senate is concerned since the criminal charges against him are still being heard by the courts.

"Sen. Trillanes is not yet convicted. Therefore, the presumption of innocence that is found in the Constitution applies to him," the minority leader said.

"That being the case, all the rights that are legally allowable to him must not be curtailed, unless they would probably entail a security to the State in the exercise of those rights."

In its ruling, the high tribunal held that Trillanes' petition to be allowed to attend the plenary sessions and committee hearings of the Senate could not be granted because to so would render him a free man.

In his petition, Trillanes argued that his election to the Senate by 11 million votes has virtually erased the political offenses with which he is charged.

He was supported in his petition by the Senate through a resolution that it approved shortly after the 14th Congress convened in July, 2007.

Pimentel noted that the Supreme Court upheld the decision of a Makati Regional Trial Court ruling which denied Trillanes' request for permission to attend Senate sessions and hearings. The RTC ruling relied on the SC decision on the case of Romeo Jalosjos, a congressman from Zamboanga del Norte who was convicted for rape.

The senator from Mindanao disputed that the Jalosjos case had anything relevant to the Trillanes case. He pointed out that Jalosjos filed a petition to be allowed to attend the sessions and hearings of the House of Representatives after he had been convicted of the sexual offense.

"Being convicted and being a detention prisoner are two different things. In the case of Mr. Jalosjos, he was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and therefore, all the consequences of that finding of guilt must necessarily apply to him, including being deprived of his usual pursuits in life, including his being a member of the House of Representatives," Pimentel said.

He made the statement in response to a move of Sen. Joker Arroyo for the Senate to look into the consequence of the SC ruling on Trillanes' membership in the Senate.

Pimentel said it is important that the side of Trillanes be heard on this issue.

Earlier, Pimentel reported that the Inter-Parliamentary Union's five-man Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (IPU-CHRP), of which he is a member, has started looking into the Trillanes case.

The committee took up the case during its session last month in response to a complaint filed by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal on the continued detention of Trillanes and his inability to discharge his legislative duties.

Pimentel, however, said that he inhibited himself from the Trillanes case in accordance with the rules of the IPU-CHRP.

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