Trillanes invokes parliamentary immunity in Binay libel case
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV invoked parliamentary immunity as he sought the dismissal of the libel case filed against him by suspended Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
On Tuesday, September 29, Trillanes filed his rejoinder-affidavit before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in response to the Makati mayor’s libel case against him for accusing the Binay family of allegedly bribing Court of Appeals (CA) justices to issue resolutions in their favor.
Trillanes invoked Section 11, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which states: “A Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session. No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress or in any committee thereof.”
Trillanes had claimed that CA justices Jose Reyes Jr and Francisco Acosta of the 6th Division received a total of P50 million ($1.12 million) to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the Ombudsman’s first preventive suspension order against Binay.
The senator was also quoted in news reports as saying that the Binays were “part of a syndicate” that has committed various anomalies.
Binay, who is serving another 6-month preventive suspension order over an allegedly overpriced city infrastructure project, then filed a libel case against Trillanes.
The senator on Tuesday said the complaint was a form of harassment by the Binay family as revenge for the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s ongoing probe on the corruption allegations against former Makati mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Trillanes also claimed violation of the forum shopping rule because Binay had already filed a contempt petition before the CA regarding the same matter.
No parliamentary immunity?
However, Binay’s lawyer Claro Certeza said Trillanes cannot invoke parliamentary immunity.
“The senator’s defense of parliamentary immunity applies only to acts done as part of his official functions. And his official function is to legislate laws, not to investigate [alleged anomalies] and determine who should be held liable,” Certeza told reporters after the hearing.
"They can investigate in Congress, but when a lawmaker tags someone as a criminal or law breaker even without evidence yet, that's a different story because that's concluding already," the lawyer added.
Certeza further said that Trillanes’ failure to present proof to support his claims should be enough reason for the DOJ to approve the senator’s criminal indictment.
"Our position has been, where is the evidence [of the bribery]? We will let the prosecutor decide on that," he said.
Certeza also reiterated the Binay camp’s appeal on the transfer of the preliminary investigation from the Office of the Makati City Prosecutor to the DOJ, doubting the DOJ’s impartiality under the watch of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. – Rappler.com