Press Release
January 4, 2010

Statement of the Majority Leader on the IPU Statement

"The Committee on Rules has already drafted a proposed resolution to be tackled on the floor. Under the proposed draft resolution Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV will be allowed to participate in committee activities, or hearings through interaction with the senators and resource persons.

"Under the draft resolution, a duly elected Senator under judicial detention prior to conviction may be allowed to participate in any committee proceedings and cannot vote nor can he participate in any plenary sessions. Why? Because under the 1987 Constitution, Senate Rules and the rules of most parliaments around the world, the presence of the legislator is needed in voting and in the establishment of a quorum. Therefore, if the senator is not present in plenary, he cannot participate in any parliamentary activity.

"The proposed draft resolution which is still subject to plenary debate provides that such participation shall be subject to the authority granted by the court having jurisdiction to the case.

"It is up to the judge to allow him to participate or not because he is under the jurisdiction of a separate branch of government. And, as a legally detained person, jurisdiction of his liberties is up to the judge handling his case. Any lawyer can tell you that."

"As to the IPU itself, during our initial hearings on the said resolution, no resource person could point to any parliament in the world that allows legally detained parliamentarians to interact and perform their duties with their respective parliaments.

"There is not one that could be presented. Therefore, this discussion took a long time because it could result into a precedent of sort. That we (the Philippines) maybe the first parliament in the world that will allow judicially detained members of Congress to perform their duties while their case is pending in the court."

"Legal luminaries have questioned the special privileges given to those individuals because under the law all prisoners or judicial detainees have limited rights; giving a particular group such special privileges maybe "unconstitutional." That is why during our initial hearing almost all our legal luminaries in the Senate were against the proposal. They include Sen. Joker Arroyo, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Sen. Edgardo Angara and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

"So, there is still a big legal question. Nevertheless I, as a Majority Leader will finalize and present the proposed draft resolution to be discussed in plenary, and will request the authors of the said resolution especially Sen. Pimentel who is the legal luminary of the group of individuals who filed the resolution to defend the legal question.

"So, my question to the letter of the IPU is: is there a parliament anywhere around the world that allows legally detained members to participate in their sessions?

"So far, all resource persons that I have spoken to and who attended the hearing could not point to any. They pointed out parliaments in the world that allow electronic voting and electronic participation, but those are for members of parliaments that are on official mission, not legally detained or are prisoners of their judicial system. That is a big question that still has to be answered.

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