Press Release
February 21, 2010


Senator Antonio Trillanes IV should be allowed to attend the sessions of the next Congress with half of his six-year term already gone and after being jailed for more than six years without being convicted of the criminal charges filed against him, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. said today.

Pimentel said the l50-nation Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), of which the Philippines is a member, is concerned that Trillanes has been detained for so many years on charges that are apparently not moving towards any definitive conclusion.

"Mere detention on the basis of criminal charges not yet completely tried is not equivalent to conviction. Hence the constitutional presumption of innocence still prevails, and yet it is being rendered nugatory by unduly restricting him from discharging his duties as a legislator," the opposition leader said.

"Effectively, he is being prevented from articulating his thoughts as a member of Congress in the Senate."

Moreover, Pimentel said considering that Trillanes has been a duly elected senator since 2007, the constitutional right of the more than 11 million voters who put him in office to have a voice in the Upper Chamber by their senatorial choice has also been effectively silenced.

The situation becomes even more deplorable, he said, because by simply detaining Sen. Trillanes without his trial or trials speedily moving towards a just resolution, his right to speedy trial guaranteed by the Constitution is instantly ignored.

"As Chairman of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, I raise this issue to the agencies of the government that have the power under the law to provide a remedy to the problem posed by the continued detention of the accused senator," he said.

As a member of the Senate, Pimentel said he had introduced two resolutions that were approved by the Chamber that would allow Trillanes to attend the Senate sessions and committee hearings.

The first resolution asked the authorities to allow Trillanes to attend Senate sessions and committee hearings even under heavy guard.

The second resolution asked the authorities to allow Sen. Trillanes to participate in Senate proceedings through electronic means, for example, via teleconferencing.

In support of these resolutions, Pimentel cited the fact that in a number of countries, the members of the legislature or parliaments detained under law before conviction are or may be allowed to attend legislative or parliamentary sessions.

He said examples of these countries are:

1. Japan where the Diet (parliament) may authorize the member detained to attend its sessions.

2. Canada where the detained parliamentarians may be allowed by judicial authorities to do so.

3. Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Turkey where competent authorities like the National Council may authorize detained legislators to attend sessions of their respective parliaments.

4. In other countries like Pakistan and Cameroon, the procedure is more simple. A request of the National Assembly suffices to enable detained legislators to attend sessions of their legislatures.

"It is understood that safeguards are instituted so that the detained legislator who is allowed to attend the sessions of the legislature may not escape from the custody of the law," Pimentel said.

He reiterated his suggestion that the authorities concerned should take heed of the concerns expressed by the 150-nation IPU on the prolonged detention of Sen. Trillanes and on the constitutional implications of that detention.

"It does sound unfair, if not unconstitutional, to have a duly-elected member of the Senate or any person for that matter subjected to detention for more than six years as the senator has been restricted of his liberty and prevented from doing his duties as a legislator without any speedy relief in sight," the minority leader said.

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