MANILA, Philippines - Senator Panfilo Lacson will be allowed to participate in the impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez despite having been absent from the upper chamber for over a year, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Sunday.
Enrile saw no violation in Lacson's absence from Senate.
He said Lacson is a duly elected member of the upper House and it is both his duty and right to take part in the impeachment proceedings.
Enrile said he will not complain over Lacson's absence, adding that he understands why the senator hid from the law.
“He asked permission to leave the country,” he said.
Lacson fled the country in January last year, shortly before an arrest order was issued for him in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder case in 2000.
Tracking teams were formed by the justice department and the Interpol but his exact whereabouts remained unknown until he surfaced in Cebu on Saturday.
Lacson's lawyer, Alex Avisado, says his client, who is now in Manila, is studying charges against his critics.
Senator Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said he has not spoken to Lacson, who is facing a complaint in the Senate ethics committee for evading arrest.
Drilon, however, doubts that his colleague will be slapped with any sanction.
He believes that Lacson can help in the impeachment proceedings but declined to say that Lacson will vote for gutierrez's conviction.
"It’s easy to see it that way, but we will be judging the case based on its merits," Drilon said.
Jueteng whistleblower Sandra Cam, on the other hand, is happy that Lacson has resurfaced.
She is even planning to hold a thanksgiving mass for him.
"Senator Lacson, we salute you. We support you. Hindi totoo ang akusasyon nila sa'yo," she said.
Lacson's long-time critic, Mary Rosebud Ong, also also welcomed him back.
She was seeking a shoot-to-kill order against the senator while he was in hiding.
"Welcome back. Finally, he got balls to return with a temporary relief. I am not bothered at all with his colleagues giving support to ping with a sigh of relief of a closure. A temporary relief is real. For me, it's just the beginning of an end. The final chapter has yet to come. Ping is a seasoned betrayer. Hope when the final judgement day comes, Ping won't flee,” Ong said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Lacson is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday, wherein he is expected to answer questions after evading media since he arrived last Saturday. – Report from Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News; ANC