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FACT CHECK: Senate followed rules of procedure in Quiboloy case


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FACT CHECK: Senate followed rules of procedure in Quiboloy case
The Rules of the Senate and a 2023 Supreme Court ruling are bases for the Senate’s exercise of its power of contempt and power to arrest a witness

Claim: Senator Risa Hontiveros is guilty of “tactless and harsh handling” of the Senate inquiry into Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) founder Apollo Quiboloy by asking for the immediate issuance of a warrant of arrest against the doomsday preacher.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook post made on March 16 has 1,100 reactions, 168 comments, and 1,500 shares as of writing.

The post was uploaded after Hontiveros called for the issuance of an arrest warrant against the KOJC leader, who had earlier been cited in contempt for failing to appear before a Senate panel investigating alleged human rights abuses committed by the preacher and his associates.

According to the post, Hontiveros mishandled the Quiboloy case, resorting to “tactless and harsh handling…by asking for the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant.”

The bottom line: The Senate can exercise its contempt power and power to arrest a witness, as provided for under the Rules of the Senate and a 2023 Supreme Court decision. 

Under Section 18 of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation, the Senate can “cite in contempt any witness before the Committee who disobeys any order of the Committee,” or “refuses to be sworn or to testify or to answer a proper question by the Committee or any of its members, or “unduly refuses to appear” before the Committee. 

It added: “Such witness may be ordered by the Committee to be detained in such place as it may designate under the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms until he/she agrees to produce the required documents, or to be sworn or to testify, or otherwise purge himself/herself of that contempt.”

While the power to arrest a witness is not specified under the Senate Rules of Procedure, the Supreme Court said in a 2023 ruling on the Pharmally case that “an arrest is necessary to carry out the coercive process of compelling attendance, testimony, and production of documents relevant and material in a legislative inquiry.”

Reiterating its previous ruling in Arnault v. Nazareno, the Court said that “[e]xperience has shown that mere requests for [relevant] information are often unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion is essential to obtain what is needed.”

The High Court added: “The Congress is not precluded from causing the appearance of a resource person. As long as the testimony of a resource person is primordial in the Legislature’s inquiry in aid of legislation, then any House of Congress or its committees may compel, by way of an arrest, his or her appearance in the inquiry proceedings.”

Senate inquiry: The Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, chaired by Hontiveros, has jurisdiction over matters related to the welfare of women, family relations, and “equality before the law of women and men.” 

Hontiveros launched the inquiry into Quiboloy, who also has an arrest warrant from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the KOJC to look into alleged cases of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and violence. (PRIMER: Investigations, cases against Apollo Quiboloy)

After Quiboloy repeatedly snubbed the hearings on January 23, February 19, and March 5, despite being subpoenaed, the panel cited Quiboloy in contempt. For his part, the KOJC pastor refused to attend what he called “bogus hearings” with “bogus witnesses.” 

On March 19, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri approved the arrest order against Quiboloy for “unduly refusing to appear” before the upper chamber’s inquiry. On March 21, Hontiveros said the arrest order was on its way to Davao City.

Rappler has published several fact-checks on the Senate’s probe into Quiboloy and the KOJC:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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