Senate blue ribbon ‘abuses’: Rights lawyers count the ways
MANILA, Philippines—Human rights lawyers on Thursday listed several violations allegedly committed by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee in the conduct of investigation on the anomalous transactions in Makati City.
Former Senators Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag and lawyer Mariano Sarmiento, members of the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism Inc. (Mabini), turned up in the Senate, not as counsels of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, but as “observers” in the ongoing hearings of the subcommittee.
“Is he (Binay) guilty or not guilty? We don’t know. Our role here is to prevent violations of the Constitution, violations of human rights, violations of civil liberties and the downgrading of governance,” Arroyo said in a press conference.
While he described Thursday’s hearing of the subcommittee as “ encouraging” after it released Binay and two others from detention without a long argument, he noted that there were lots of instances when the body committed some violations.
“I should know because I was the chairman of the blue ribbon committee for eight years,” Arroyo said.
First, the subcommittee was “wrong” when it denied Binay’s request to get advance copies of the panel’s questions, Arroyo said.
“The committee was absolutely wrong there because the rules of the blue ribbon committee says, in effect, that as far as practicable, the resource persons should be asked to submit a written statement of what they will say. It has not been followed, not one instance,” he said.
Arroyo said the subcommittee was also wrong when only two of its members voted to cite in contempt Binay and five other resource persons and ordered them arrested and detained for their refusal to face its hearings. He reiterated his call for the Senate to revise its rules.
“In any theory, the due process clause says in effect that there must be, one, an impartial tribunal; second, to confront the witnesses face to face; third, there must be notices. All three have been violated…Not one is present in this proceeding,” he said.
He then noted how some members of the subcommittee have pronounced Binay and his father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, guilty of allegations being hurled at them.
“How can anyone, you are a judge, hearing a case , you can’t make a pronouncement that one is guilty then hear the case. You must be a neutral party,” Arroyo said.
Saguisag, meanwhile, said martial law is prevailing in the Senate.
“We came here dahil ang tingin namin talagang ang dating parang umiiral na naman ang walang habag na batas-militar sa Senado,” he said.
But contrary to what they were expecting, Saguisag said he was surprised that they had “very civilized exchanges” with Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV during Thursday’s hearing.
For his part, Sarmiento expressed concern over the scope of the investigation of the committee, which was initially tasked to look into the allegedly overpriced parking building but has expanded to other issues.
“We don’t know the scope of the investigation, we don’t know who will be called, we don’t know how long it will take. I think that’s our concern in Mabini. That’s the constitutional issue…I have never seen this, this kind of behavior and that’s why we’re so concerned,” Sarmiento said.
Originally posted: 5:58 PM | Thursday, January 29th, 2015
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