House of Representatives

To attack Senate, Marcoleta uses wrong case title vs a power that House also uses

Lian Buan

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To attack Senate, Marcoleta uses wrong case title vs a power that House also uses

INTERPELLATION. Deputy House Speaker Rodante Marcoleta interpellates on October 4, 2021, during the last hearing of the House committee on good government on the procurement anomalies.

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Marcoleta insists Senate cannot detain, missing new jurisprudence that allows Senate to detain but only for the duration of hearings

Deputy House Speaker Rodante Marcoleta questioned the Senate’s use of its contempt power, but cited a wrong case law in doing so.

Marcoleta, a lawyer, also overlooked the fact that the House of Representatives similarly likes to wield the same power even to the point of courting a constitutional crisis.

Attacking the Senate’s use of its contempt power, and saying it had no authority to detain, was Marcoleta’s main line of interpellation on Monday, October 4, during the last hearing of the House of Representatives committee on good government and public accountability on the procurement anomalies involving Pharmally Pharmaceutical and Procurement Service–Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

Marcoleta pilloried the Senate blue ribbon committee for detaining Pharmally director Linconn Ong in its premises for contempt, and threatening former presidential adviser Michael Yang of arrest, for evasive answers.

“Do you know that in the case of Ong vs Court of Appeals, GR 132839, this is dated November 21, 2001, it says the Rules of Procedure of the Senate and the Rules of the Blue Ribbon Committee do not state that the committee has the power to issue an order of arrest?” said Marcoleta.

Marcoleta, the SAGIP representative, cited the wrong decision and missed a more recent jurisprudence.

The decision he was citing was actually the 2007 case Neri vs Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and the phrase Marcoleta mentioned was from a concurring opinion. It was a decision where the Supreme Court nullified the Senate’s arrest and detention of Arroyo-time economic and development secretary Romulo Neri over the NBN-ZTE scandal.

What Marcoleta failed to mention was newer jurisprudence. There is the 2018 case Balag vs Senate, in the detention of Aegis Juris fratman Arvin Balag, where the Supreme Court recognized Senate’s detention power but limited its period of validity.

“However, the period of imprisonment under the inherent power of contempt of the Senate during inquiries in aid of legislation should only last until the termination of the legislative inquiry,” said the en banc decision penned by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.

Marcoleta would mention a few more case laws that caution Congress not to abuse its contempt power, and respect the constitutional rights of its resource speakers.

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House too detains resource speakers

“Maliwanag, wala naman silang kapangyarihang magpa-aresto ng tao, hindi ko nga alam bakit may na detain sila at paano sila nagpa-aresto,” said Marcoleta.

But the House of Representatives also likes to exercise this power of detaining resource persons for contempt.

Not so long ago, Marcoleta himself actively participated in a hearing into Philhealth that ended up detaining for contempt PhilHealth Internal Legal Department senior manager Rogelio Pocallan Jr.

In 2017, the same House committee detained for 57 days six provincial officials of Ilocos Norte during its investigation of alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of tobacco funds.

The lower chamber even courted constitutional crisis when it issued a show cause order to Court of Appeals justices who had granted the writ of habeas corpus to the Ilocos officials, which should have resulted in immediate release.

In the Ilocos 6 issue, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged the lower chamber to recall its show cause order and avert a crisis. It was one of Sereno’s acts that will be scrutinized as an alleged transgression during the top magistrate’s impeachment proceedings at the House.

Marcoleta helped impeach Sereno.

On Monday, to undermine the Senate, Marcoleta would largely defer to the courts, even advising former PS-DBM chief Lloyd Christopher Lao to seek judicial remedy.

“Dapat sana pumunta ka na sa korte sa pagkat ang nangyayari ay hindi na in aid of legislation,” said Marcoleta.

(You should have gone to court because what’s happening is no longer in aid of legislation.)

Marcoleta’s interpellations at the lower chamber had been used by President Rodrigo Duterte in his late night speech to continue defending Pharmally and PS-DBM, and threaten the Senate, a co-equal body. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.