What happens if senators are suspended?

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2014 03:59 PM | Updated as of May 08 2014 11:59 PM

MANILA - There is no precedent for the Senate to follow in case the three senators indicted for plunder are ordered suspended by the Sandiganbayan.

It would be a "unique situation," says Senator Chiz Escudero who could not say for sure what would happen to the respective staffs of the senators if a suspension order is carried out.

"Remember, hindi sila tanggal. Suspendido lang. So certain entitlements particularly with respect to the staff would still be there," Escudero said when asked by reporters about the procedure that would be followed if the senators are ordered suspended.

What is clear, he said, is that the three senators would be automatically suspended and would not be able to be able to carry out their functions once the plunder charges are elevated to the Sandiganbayan.

"Clearly, they could not vote, they could not speak because they could not attend," he said.

"Anong mangyayari sa staff nila? Mananatili pa rin dahil suspendido lamang sila. Hindi sila makaka-attend (the senators) lamang ng sesyon."

Escudero pointed out that quorum would not be affected as the remaining senators would still be able to constitute the required number to pass a bill and the required 2/3 or 16 votes to pass a treaty.

He said there should be no debate in the Senate if the suspension must be enforced.

"First time pa lang mangyayari 'to. Hindi pa namin pinag-uusapan. Pero ang posisyon ko hindi na ito dapat pagbotohan dahil paano naman pagbobotohan ang isang bagay kaugnay ng pagsunod o di pagsunod sa batas? Paano kung nanalo ang posisyong huwag sila suspendihin? E di parang nagbotohan kaming huwag sundin ang batas na pinasa namin? Napakasama sa panlasa noon," Escudero said.

The arrest could be implemented even while Congress is in session but Escudero would rather that the arrest happen not inside the session hall.

If the arrest would be carried out in the Senate, he said, "prudence" and "protocol" dictate that the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms be informed by the arresting authorities. The OSAA would then inform the Senate President.

"Hindi naman kailangang may camera silang nasa likod, susugod dito, papasukin ang sesyon at makikipag-agawan. Masyado nang OA (overacting) 'yun. Things can be done with cooler heads prevailing at hindi naman kailangan magpasikat ng sinuman," Escudero said.

Escudero is not in favor of giving the lawmakers special treatment but the Senate, he said, could make an intervention to ask the courts that certain privileges be given to the arrested senators, just like what the House did when former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested.
But he said that recognizance could not be practiced in a non-bailable case.

He said if that certain courtesies are extended to high-profile detainees, these should also be accorded to all detainees.