Enrile house arrest illegal—Santiago
MANILA, Philippines–The house arrest that some legislators are seeking for detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is problematic as it goes against two great constitutional principles, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Santiago said the proposal violates the principles of equal protection of the law and of due process.
Under the equal protection principle, the law must treat every person similarly situated in the same manner, she said.
Santiago noted that an ailing former President has only been accorded hospital arrest. So why should Enrile be given a different treatment? she asked.
“Why is President Gloria Arroyo, a former President of the Philippines, given hospital arrest, while Enrile would be given house arrest when he’s just a former senate president?” she told Senate reporters.
Arroyo, who is suffering from a rare bone disease, is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on plunder charges.
Santiago said that to accord Enrile the special privilege of house arrest would go against the principle of due process.
“How many people of his age have died in jail waiting for their appeals to be decided? Why are we making an exception for him?” she said.
If Enrile were to be allowed to stay out of jail on account of age, this privilege should also be extended to other elderly prisoners, she said.
“You don’t ask for an exception for one person in a democracy. You ask for a law that will make it possible to attain certain conditions for everybody who falls under the requirement of the law. That is due process of law,” she said.
“If we want persons of that age to stay out of jail, let’s have a law. That’s the procedure,” Santiago said.
Enrile has been confined at the Makati Medical Center for pneumonia, which could be life-threatening for the elderly.
Before he was taken to the Makati hospital last week, he was being detained at the Philippine National Police General Hospital on orders of the Sandiganbayan antigraft court on account of his frail health.
Enrile is charged with plunder, a nonbailable offense, for allegedly taking P172 million in kickbacks from his pork barrel or priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allocations.
After he was rushed to the Makati hospital on Feb. 26, fellow lawmakers at the Senate and the House of Representatives pushed the idea of having him placed under house arrest on humanitarian grounds.
Santiago noted that pneumonia, Enrile’s ailment, was “tricky” because it mimics other illnesses such as the common cold, and that “apparently, there is no proper proof” of it.
She warned that if Enrile is granted house arrest because of his illness, other prisoners might start claiming to be suffering from pneumonia, too.
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