19 senators call for protection of Senate speeches amid Trillanes case
MANILA, Philippines – Nineteen senators stood by the parliamentary immunity of all speeches delivered in the Senate, amid a case filed against opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV over his October 2017 privilege speech against President Rodrigo Duterte.
The senators filed Senate Resolution No. 697, saying that Article VI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution "must at all times be upheld and protected."
The provision states that "no member [of Congress] shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof."
"The Senate must thwart any attempt to diminish its members' constitutionally guaranteed right to parliamentary immunity and privilege from arrest as it is only with the fullest liberty of speech that legislators can effectively discharge their mandate," the resolution reads.
The 19 senators who signed the resolution are:
- Franklin Drilon
- Francis Pangilinan
- Paolo Benigno Aquino IV
- Leila de Lima
- Antonio Trillanes IV
- Ralph Recto
- Juan Edgardo Angara
- Nancy Binay
- Joseph Victor Ejercito
- Sherwin Gatchalian
- Gregorio Honasan
- Risa Hontiveros
- Panfilo Lacson
- Loren Legarda
- Manny Pacquiao
- Grace Poe
- Joel Villanueva
- Cynthia Villar
- Juan Miguel Zubiri
Citing the framers of the 1987 Constitution, the resolution states that the purpose of such a privilege is to ensure the "effective discharge of legislative functions by a member of Congress," which should be free from vindictiveness or fear.
It also cited Supreme Court rulings, such as Vera v Avelino, Osmeña v Pendatun, and Pobre v Santiago, to further push the senators' point.
The senators also said that only Congress can discipline its own members for unparliamentary conduct or disorderly behavior, which is usually coursed through the ethics committees.
The resolution came after inciting to sedition charges were filed against Trillanes before the Pasay City Prosecutor's Office for his October 2017 privilege speech.
In the speech, Trillanes accused Duterte of having P2 billion worth of transactions in his bank account not reflected in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
The charges stemmed from the complaint filed in November 2017 by Duterte allies lawyer Manny Luna and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) member Jacinto Paras, who is now labor undersecretary.
The prosecutor said Trillanes' intention was clearly "to sow the seeds of sedition in the mind of the people" and that the speech was not covered by parliamentary immunity because it was "purely an attack" and not in aid of legislation. – Rappler.com