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Senators hit gag order on PCGG issue

Posted by Michille on September 26th, 2006

Senators hit gag order on PCGG issue – The Manila Bulletin Online!

Despite the Supreme Court (SC) order barring the Senate from saying anything on the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) issue, senators yesterday assailed the prohibition, insisting that Congress is not inferior to the High Tribunal.

Senators at the plenary session took turns explaining before members of the Upper Chamber that it is exempt from any gag order, even if it came from the SC.

“If we speak of the case (PCGG), will we be summoned to the SC?” Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, who represented the Senate at the SC last week at the oral arguments on the petition for habeas corpus filed by PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio, said the order to be silent on the case was more of an agreement between him, the Senate Committee on Government Corporations, and the PCGG.

Sen. Arroyo made the clarification following the statement made by SC spokesman Atty. Ismael Khan barring anyone from commenting on the PCGG case on pain of being cited in contempt by the SC.

“There is no way the SC can order Congress gagged, especially on issues of national importance and the PCGG issue is of national importance,” Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said.

Article 6, Section 11 of the Constitution provides that no member of Congress or any of its committees will be held liable for privilege speeches.

Drilon said this provision clearly debunks the announcement made by Khan that the Senate is being gagged by the SC.

“It would appear to my limited knowledge of the Constitution that we cannot be held liable by the SC (even if they break silence on the PCGG issue),” Drilon said.

Sen. Arroyo said that the provision clearly exonerates Congress from any imputable offense to the SC should the body discuss the PCGG issue while delivering a privilege speech.

However, Sen. Arroyo said he assured the SC that he will honor the agreement and be mum on the issue, which is expected to be resolved within 45 days.

“No amount of SC ruling can gag the Senate or any member of Congress, it is only an agreement,” he said.

But while senators agreed that the supposed gag order only affects them nominally, they convened a caucus yesterday to discuss the matter away from public view.

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