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Senate blue ribbon ‘abuses’: Rights lawyers count the ways

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 07:23 PM January 29, 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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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TAGS: blue ribbon committee, human rights lawyers, Joker Arroyo, Junjun Binay, Mabini, Mariano Sarmiento, overpricing, Rene Saguisag, Senate
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