What’s the protocol if Enrile, Revilla, Estrada are ordered arrested?
MANILA, Philippines—Talking about the possible arrest of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. is taboo in the Senate. But if that happens, there would be no special arrangement, according to Senator Francis Escudero.
Escudero admitted that they were treading cautiously on the issue of the possible indictment of their colleagues over the P10-billion pork barrel scam before the Sandiganbayan given its sensitivity.
“We have not yet talked about it. No caucus has been called by the leadership to talk about it. And I think it would be presumptuous for the leadership to talk about it,’’ Escudero told a Senate forum. “You’re assuming the Ombudsman would deny their motions for reconsideration.’’
The senator admitted that the mere signing of the Blue Ribbon Committee report recommending the filing of charges against the three has caused a “little uneasiness’’ among them.
Revilla on Wednesday claimed that Malacañang has been rushing the filing of plunder charges against them with the anti-graft court. But if this were to happen soon, Revilla said he would face this squarely.
The Ombudsman ruled in early April that there was merit in filing plunder charges against the senators, alleged pork barrel scam key operator Janet Lim Napoles and other lawmakers over the scam. The senators filed motions for reconsideration.
Should the Ombudsman rule to indict them and the Sandiganbayan issue a warrant for their arrest, Escudero ruled out any special arrangement, except for the usual courtesies.
“I don’t think any arrangement is necessary [assuming that happens],’’ he said.
To avoid fanfare, he said the Sandiganbayan Sheriff could course the arrest order through the Senate Sergeant at Arms, he said.
The senator said the court sheriff, should he want to serve the warrant at the Senate, should do so after the session. He reminded the sheriff that the warrant could not be served during the session.
If the warrants were served at home, there would be no need to course these through the Senate Sergeant at Arms, he said.
“Prudence dictates, if I were the serving officer, I would talk to the Sergeant at Arms. I will tell him: `We’re here to serve a warrant on three of your members. Kindly inform the Senate President’,’’ he said.
‘They can’t just rush here, and with cameramen in tow, barge into the session hall and jostle with everyone else. That’s too OA (over-acting). Things can be done with cooler heads prevailing,’’ he added.
Echoing his colleagues, Escudero said that upon the filing of charges, the senators would be automatically suspended.
That means they could not perform their regular functions such as attend sessions, file bills, vote and chair hearings, but they could maintain their staff to follow up bills.
“This is the first time it’s going to happen,’’ he said of the possible suspension. “We’ve not talked about it. But my position is that we should not vote on it. How could we vote on whether to follow or not to follow a law that we passed?’’
Should it come to a vote, Escudero said he would vote for suspension.
Escudero doubted that the Senate leadership could take recognizance of the senators if they were charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense.
It will not affect their work, because a quorum is determined by the number of senators present in the chamber, and chairmanships of committees could be delegated to the vice chairman, according to Escudero.
“If at all, it will have an effect on the ratification of a treaty but that is still doable. Under the Constitution, that constitutes two-thirds of 24 senators, so that’s 16 votes. If 21 can legally attend, you need 16 votes to ratify. That’s still doable but it’s more difficult,’’ he said.