Joker Arroyo nephew: Senate has no power of arrest
MANILA, Philippines – The nephew of Senator Joker Arroyo contested the Senate's arrest order against him, saying only a judge can issue an arrest warrant.
Dr Jack Arroyo wrote Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III, asking him to recall the contempt and arrest order against him in the year-long Senate probe into corruption allegations against opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay.
On August 18, Guingona issued contempt and arrest orders against Arroyo and other alleged Binay dummies for their “continued refusal” to attend the Senate inquiry.
Arroyo's name came up in a May hearing, where Binay critic Renato Bondal said the doctor got 20% in the 2003 joint venture between the University of Makati (UMak) College of Nursing, and the Systems Technology Institute (STI). (READ: Critic: Binay 'earned' from Makati nursing school)
Bondal branded Arroyo as a “dummy” of Binay, who had a 1% nominal share in the company created under the joint venture. Senators questioned the joint venture with STI, saying nursing was not its core competency. An ophthalmologist, Arroyo has not attended any Senate hearing since then, and instead issued a statement defending the joint venture.
In his letter, Arroyo said his lawyers advised him to ask that the contempt and arrest orders be recalled because they violate his rights and due process. He argued that the Senate has no power to arrest him.
“Only a judge can issue a warrant of arrest and senators are not judges. That constitutional protection to the citizenry may not be contravened, much less withdrawn by the Senate, thru its Rules of Procedure, by granting themselves the forbidden power of arrest,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo also cited the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution: “No warrant of arrest shall be issued except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge.”
The doctor said that the Senate sergeant-at-arms' staff acted “like roving policemen looking for arrestees” when the Senate official cannot serve arrest warrants, only “summons.”
Arroyo said that he did not attend the last hearing he was invited to because he was on medical mission when the subpoena was served at his residence.
He said that instead of asking him to explain his absence, the committee “arbitrarily” cited him in contempt and ordered his arrest, violating due process.
Senators have defended the contempt and arrest orders by citing Senate rules. Under these rules, a committee has the power to summon witnesses, cite them in contempt, and have them detained under the custody of the sergeant-at-arms.
Senators also pointed out that Arroyo's uncle, former Senator Arroyo, is a friend of Binay, and a former representative of the Binay bailiwick of Makati.
The Senate has been conducting a record 24-hearing inquiry into allegations that Binay received kickbacks from overpriced Makati infrastructure projects, and used dummies to hide ill-gotten wealth when he was mayor of the financial district for 21 years. Senators openly admit they intend to block Binay's 2016 presidential bid.
Two-person rule questioned anew
Doctor Arroyo questioned the Senate's procedure of ordering witnesses' arrest. He said a resource person can only be cited in contempt when he or she is actually before the committee and defies its order.
He cited the case of witnesses Jean Arnault in 1949 and former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales in 2005 whom the Senate ordered detained for refusing to respond to senators' questions.
Arroyo also questioned the February 2013 amendment in the Senate rules that allowed only two senators – the committee chairman and one member – and not a majority or one-third of members to constitute a quorum.
“That violates the constitutional injunction that the rights of persons invited to testify should be respected. Two members can speak for the 24-member Senate, and detain witnesses who do not testify according to the pleasures of the chairman and the other members,” he said.
In the meeting on Monday, only Guingona, Senate blue ribbon subcommittee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III, and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV agreed to issue the contempt and detention orders. The blue ribbon committee has 20 members.
Arroyo's uncle, former Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Joker Arroyo, and Binay's Senate allies have questioned the same two-member rule in January. Back then, the committee ordered the arrest of Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
Former senators Arroyo and Rene Saguisag, both human rights lawyers, accompanied Mayor Binay, and insisted that the Senate must follow due process. (READ: Joker: Embattled Junjun Binay like Ninoy Aquino)
Now, Arroyo's nephew echoed their argument that the Senate must provide witnesses questions in advance, a right the Supreme Court upheld in the 2008 case of former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri.
'Walang basagan ng trip'
The other alleged Binay dummies that the Senate cited in contempt and ordered arrested are:
- Erlinda S. Chong, over the alleged Comembo land scam
- Irish S. Chong, over the alleged Comembo land scam
- Irene S. Chong, over the alleged Comembo land scam
- Kim Tun S. Chong, over the alleged Comembo land scam
- Laureano Gregorio Jr, the supposed former owner of the so-called Hacienda Binay
- Marguerite Lichnock, common-law-wife of Binay financial adviser Gerry Limlingan
- James L. Tiu, brother of businessman and alleged Binay dummy Antonio Tiu, and a 2010 campaign donor to Binay
- Anne Loraine B. Tiu, wife of James Tiu
Binay's political ally Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile joined the criticism of the long-running Senate probe, saying it was losing steam and became “self-destructing” for the institution.
Binay critic Senator Trillanes brushed it aside and said, “Dito sa Senado, walang basagan ng trip.” (Here in the Senate, leave others to their own pursuits.) – Rappler.com