Drilon: Senate cannot place 3 senators charged under custody

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Friday, May 16, 2014

SENATE President Franklin Drilon said the Senate cannot place under its custody Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. should the plunder case reaches the Sandiganbayan and and the anti-graft court orders their preventive suspension and arrest.

In a press conference on Thursday, Drilon said these senators will be under preventive suspension by the Sandiganbayan "because of the provision in plunder law that a preventive suspension is imposed on them."

The Sandiganbayan, according to Drilon, has no choice but to impose preventive suspension for 90 days which he further said is entirely different case from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV case who has been jailed for rebellion during the time of former President Gloria Arroyo.

"If you ask why Senator Trillanes then is still functioning as senator? It is because Senator Trillanes was not charged with graft. There was no preventive suspension. That is the principle involved," Drilon explained.

"The SC (Supreme Court) said that it is not correct to have a perpetual preventive suspension because if you suspend him, in effect, perpetually, you are in fact dismissing the public official because the term will expire when he is under preventive suspension," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano had pushed for the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the pork barrel scam, while suggesting the modification of rules to allow the senators linked to controversy to be cross-examined.

Drilon, however, opposed Cayetano's proposal, saying that all the Senate public hearings and inquiries are in aid of legislation.

"I'm not in favor because we should not forget that a committee hearing in the Senate and in the House is in aid of legislation which is the principal purpose," Drilon said.

Drilon added the Senate is not in crisis and it will remain strong as an institution amid the pork barrel scandal.

"The Senate will not collapse as seen by some people," Drilon said, obviously referring to former Senator Panfilo Lacson who warned the very institution he served for 12 years would crumble if the Napoles list would be made public.

"There may be some problems of individual members but the Senate as an institution remains strong. The Senate is composed of different people. Politicians come and go, senators come and go, but the Senate will remain as an institution that is part of our democratic government," Drilon said.

The Napoles list, also known as Lacson list, was composed of 98 individuals, including 12 incumbent and former senators, who allegedly dealt with Napoles, the supposed mastermind of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

Last Tuesday, Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III made public the unsigned Lacson version of the Napoles list that include Senators Revilla, Estrada, Enrile, Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Gregorio Honasan II, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito, and former senators Manuel Villar and late former senator Robert Barbers.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, submitted to the committee Napoles' signed list of lawmakers and government officials linked to the scam on Thursday. Napoles' affidavit will follow on May 22.

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), on the other hand, hit President Benigno Aquino III for not lifting a finger against Cabinet men implicated by Napoles.

"We workers are enraged by the fact that corruption persists, and became even more rampant, under Aquino. The Napoles list proves that Aquino’s daang matuwid is just an illusion to try to cover up his own corrupt schemes," said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

Included in Napoles' list of politicians allegedly scam are some of the Aquino administration’s top officials: Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, former Customs chief Ruffy Biazon, Technological Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Joel Villanueva, among others.

But Aquino said in an interview on Thursday that he will not fire them unless they are proven guilty by the court.

He also said that he might lose Cabinet officials who have been working hard if in every call of certain groups or individuals he would remove them.

"Aquino has been harboring criminals in his administration. Not only has he sheltered, but has given key positions to officials involved in the pork barrel scam. With the pork barrel king protecting them, it’s no wonder that lawmakers and other government officials have become ever callous in stealing from the people," Soluta said.

KMU said the disclosure of the Napoles goes to show that the the entire government -- from the executive to the legislative and the judiciary -- has lost credibility to handle the case.

"How could we trust the government when all of its branches stole from us? The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the Department of Justice and the Aquino-controlled Supreme Court should get their hands off the investigation because it conflicts with their interests," Soluta said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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