Press Release
September 16, 2013

Transcript of Press Briefing of SP Drilon

SP DRILON: This episode is part of the cleansing process in our system and I am confident that the Senate will come out of this stronger. We are able to go through this cleansing process because we have a working democracy and we have a President who stands in a platform of transparency and accountability. We will exert every effort in order that we can recover the confidence of the people in the institution of Congress as a pillar of our democratic system. We will continue to discharge our functions and we will continue to define policies, which we think is critical in every aspect of our political life. This afternoon, we will pass on third reading the bill, which will postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan elections. We will go to bicameral conference immediately as we have to finish this law before we go on break on September 25 since the elections will be on October 20, we have no more time because we will be back on October 13 to tackle this issue. We will also start the debate on the Freedom on Information bill before we go on our break on September 25 so that when we come back in mid-October, we should be able to pass the Freedom of Information bill before we tackle the budget. In so far as the budget is concerned, hearings are continuing. We expect to receive the General Appropriations Bill from the House, approved when we come back sometime in November. Therefore, we are confident that we will have the General Appropriations Act signed before the year is over.

If a Senator is charged with plunder, how will that affect his standing in the Senate?

SP DRILON: Let us put in context and I'll describe to you the process so that we will understand what is going to happen. Today, per announcement of the Department of Justice, they are going to file a case. We don't even know what this case is about. But what will be delivered to the office of the Ombudsman by the National Bureau of Investigation is the evidence that they have gathered in the course of the fact-finding case of this investigation. Once, the Ombudsman receives the referral or the results of the investigation of the NBI and the DOJ, then the Ombudsman will make an evaluation. Evaluation for what? They will evaluate if there is sufficient basis to ask whoever is named as respondents to file their counter-affidavit.

The counter-affidavit under the procedure is supposed to be filed within 10 days from the receipt by the respondents of the charges filed with the Office of the Ombudsman. Together with the documents in support of the charges the respondents are given 10 days to file the counter-affidavit. Assuming that there are no extensions requested or granted, then, upon the receipt of the counter-affidavit by the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman will now evaluate whether on the basis of the evidence presented by the NBI and the counter-affidavit of the respondents, there is sufficient basis to establish what we call a prima facie case. Whether or not a prima facie case has been established for purposes of filing the information in the Sandigan. Assuming that the Ombudsman finds prima facie case, then a case against the respondents will be filed in the Sandiganbayan. That is now a criminal case. Until the case reaches the Sandiganbayan, there is no criminal case yet. It is when the criminal case or the information is filed, that is when the warrant of arrest will be issued. That is the process that will be followed. Whether or not the warrant of arrest will be issued rests upon the judgment of the Sandiganbayan. It is not the Ombudsman who will issue the warrant of arrest but the Sandiganbayan.

Tama ba yung sinabi ni Senator Miriam na once the case is filed before the Sandiganbayan, automatically suspended yung Senator according to the law?

SP DRILON: There is a provision in the plunder law which says that. There is also a provision in the Constitution which says matters of disciplining members of the House and the Senate rests on the respective chambers. We have to study that because this is a case of first impression. But, if for example, the Sandigan issues a warrant, non-bailable offense, then physically the respondent cannot report for work because they will now be under the custody of the Sandiganbayan. A classic example today is the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She is under the physical custody of courts. She is confined in the hospital because that is where the court ordered that she be confined. Because, when a warrant of arrest is issued and the respondent submits himself or herself or surrenders to the court, the court now has legal and physical custody of the body of the accused so they can determine where they can be located and placed. That issue is a novel issue, wala pang precedent that I know of. Pag-aaralan namin yan.

Habang nasa Ombudsman pa siya, wala pang malinaw kung ano ang mangyayari sa mga lawmakers?

SP DRILON: Tama po yan because the Ombudsman will still determine whether there is prima facie case. Wala pang kaso sa Sandigan. Just to make it clear to you, the stage in the Ombudsman is the same as in the fiscal's office. The Ombudsman is the equivalent of the fiscal when it involves public officials and anti-graft is being filed. You know very well na pag finile ng kaso sa fiscal wala pang determination of probable cause, because for all you know, the fiscal will dismiss the case on the ground that there is no probable cause and therefore, no criminal case is filed in the courts. That is the same situation as the Ombudsman.

On whether the Senate will still study the case even when the Sandigan files a case against the lawmakers.

SP DRILON: We will respect the decision of the court. If there is an order suspending them, we will respect the decision of the court. It is up to the respondents to take the appropriate remedy.

Hindi po ba Senator Trillanes was allowed to conduct public hearings in his cell?

SP DRILON: Yes, that is again proof that even if there are cases pending in the courts, they can still continue to function as members of the Senate but in so far as their ability in the trial is concerned, then a warrant is issued and they are placed in the custody of the courts.

When the case is in the Ombudsman, there will be no suspension?

SP DRILON: Wala, because this is a criminal case and the Ombudsman is trying to determine whether there is probable cause.

On the Senate's need to change its image

SP DRILON: As I have said in the past two days, galit ang taong bayan, at kailangang gagawin namin ang lahat ng hakbang para po naman maibalik natin ang tiwala ng taong bayan sa Senado.

On how the Senate can bring back the trust of the people.

SP DRILON: Well, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Remember, they are elected representatives.

On reports that Senator Estrada left the country.

SP DRILON: I do not know. Wala po akong pinipirmahan na authority to travel for Jinggoy Estrada. Let us make it clear, I do not know it for a fact, kung umalis si Senator Estrada o hindi. Ang masasabi ko sa inyo, wala akong pinirmahan na authority to travel.

On whether Senate President will encourage the Senators to face the accusations against them.

SP DRILON: I am sure that they are prepared, I do not have to advise them. They are prepared to face the charges once the charges are filed. They can travel in their own travel passports, not on their official passports. I was just saying that to emphasize that I have no information as to whether they left the country or not.

They can only be stopped if there is a hold departure order?

SP DRILON: Tama yan. Pag nagfile na sa Sandigan, automatic yung HDO.

The case is personal to each of them. Will they get any kind of support from the Senate?

SP DRILON: We will abide by the decisions of the court. I am sure that they are capable of defending themselves.

Halimbawa po na masuspend sila, anong effect po nun sa Senate?

SP DRILON: Wala naman. This is a collegial body and we will continue to function as a collegial body.

Sir, hindi ba yun kabawasan kahit papano?

SP DRILON: We will function. All the committees are still there. The committees will continue to work.

Kung sakaling matuloy na may warrant against those mga respondents, pwede po ba yung Senado na may posibilidad na i-custody niyo yung mga respondents?

SP DRILON: The matter of who will be the custodian is the matter that the court will rule upon. Remember, I already said 'What is the purpose of the warrant of arrest?' The purpose of the warrant of arrest is for the court to make certain that these respondents will be available when the trial takes place. Where the court will place them is a matter for the court to decide. Example, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the court decided that she be placed in the custody of the hospital, so nasa husgado po yan.

Sir, yung kay Senator Trillanes, it was contemplated na under the cognizance of the Senate?

SP DRILON: I will repeat. That is up to the court. That is not up to the Senate.

But the Senate will not petition?

SP DRILON: The Senate will be a passive player here in so far as the court proceedings are concerned. We will just be awaiting the orders of the court.

Pero sir, pag yung mga senators involved hiningi yung suporta niyo na sa inyo muna sila i-custody?

SP DRILON: I repeat that is not for us to determine. That is for the court to determine. Regardless of my opinion, that this for the court to determine. I have already demonstrated to you that in the case of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the court has determined where she will be located.

What does the law say if the respondent is over 70 years old? Pwede bang kasuhan?

SP DRILON: Hindi ko napag-aralan yan. I will have to review. That's very specific and detailed. I'm sorry I don't want to commit a mistake by expressing an opinion without looking back at the law.

Sir, naka sick leave po ba si Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile?

SP DRILON: Hindi ko alam. As I left my office at 2:00 pm, I have not seen on my desk a sick leave form.

Sir, but he was absent for two days sa session?

SP DRILON: I cannot recall.

Pero wala pong OB sir na sinubmit?

SP DRILON: Wala akong maalala.

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