Palace leaves detention of 3 senators to Sandiganbayan

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2014 05:31 PM | Updated as of Apr 05 2014 08:20 AM

MANILA - Malacañang stayed out of questions on where Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada may be detained should a case of plunder be filed against them in connection with the pork barrel scam.

The three, along with other respondents, have been given 5 days to submit a motion for reconsideration of the Office of the Ombudsman's decision to indict them.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has batted that they be detained in regular jails.

Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles is currently detained in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna over a serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Friday said, "Once the resolution is filed before them, there will be a determination of probable cause and at which time they will issue -- and if they find that there's a probable cause, they will issue the warrant of arrest.

"It may be up for their disposition as well so we do not wish to make comment on that. It's all up to them. Whatever the Sandiganbayan will decide on, the Executive Branch will just enforce. It's not for us to decide. It's for the courts to decide. They will... Anything in respect of venue, detention, these are within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan."

Asked if there is any law that could accord some special treatment to Enrile because of advanced age, Lacierda said, "I don't know if there is any law but it will be subject to the discretion of the courts because I am certain...most likely, that lawyers will file their respective motions."

The Office of the Ombudsman indicts persons and files corruption charges before the Sandiganbayan. The office is meant to be an independent constitutional body.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now representative of Pampanga's 2nd district at the House of Representatives, is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center due to complications from a cervical spine surgery.

She is facing a non-bailable case for plunder.

Leave, suspension

Meanwhile, Malacañang also stayed out of discussions on whether the three senators should go on leave or be suspended from the Senate.

Lacierda was asked whether Malacañang is in support of Santiago's recommendation that all the senators who will be charged before the Sandiganbayan should go on leave.

"I think Senate President Frank Drilon already responded to that and I think he is a better person to respond to this. Part of the requirement of being charged is the opportunity to be heard by the -- from the respondents. The call for the senators to go on leave is best address to their own judgment. But there are rules and procedures in the Senate as to when a particular senator may be suspended and those rules have been mentioned by Senate President Frank Drilon," he said.

"I would support the call for due process but there are rules also that are in place when it comes to suspension of any legislator whether it be from the House or from the Senate. My impression and my belief is that there are already rules in place for the senators and for the Senate as a body to discuss. We would rather not discuss that comment on a separate branch of government," he added.

Drilon had said in an interview on ANC that going on leave is at the discretion of the senators. Suspension, meanwhile, is at the discretion of the Sandiganbayan.

"Kung merong warrant of arrest at kung merong order na masususpend sila sa Senado, the situation would definitely change. And since this is a non-bailable offense, they will be under detention by the Sandiganbayan, and they will be ordered suspended from the Senate by the Sandiganbayan," he said.

In the past, congressmen who face charges have been allowed to keep their posts during the pendency of the cases in court. They are only dropped from the rolls following conviction by final judgment in an offense that imposes a penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office.