MANILA -- Senate President Franklin Drilon said he will request concerned law enforcers not to arrest inside the Senate premises the three senators indicted for the pork barrel scam "as a matter of constitutional courtesy."
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla can technically be arrested anywhere, even inside the session hall, having been charged with a grave offense. But Drilon said he would request that the arrest, if the Sandiganbayan orders so, be made outside the Senate.
"As a matter of institutional courtesy, however, I will not allow the law enforcement officers to serve the warrant in the session hall or in the Senate. Not as a matter of law, because by law, they can insist, but as a matter of institutional courtesy. They should not be arrested while they are in the session," Drilon told reporters.
Legislators can be exempted from arrest for crimes where the penalty of imprisonment does not exceed six years.
The issuance of a warrant of arrest is not automatic, Drilon said, even after the Ombudsman junked the motion of reconsideration of Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla.
Drilon said after the Ombudsman files the information before the Sandiganbayan, the case would first have to be raffled to a division. The division would then study the evidence at hand if it is sufficient to issue an arrest warrant. Where the senators would be detained is for the Sandiganbayan to decide.
Drilon said he is not certain if the three senators would be handcuffed once arrested. He said, however, that the senators should be treated with respect.
"They must be given naman the respect because they are presumed innocent naman until proven guilty," he said.
He added the Senate cannot take the three senators under recognizance because the plunder is a non-bailable offense.
"Clearly, in the case of non-bailable offenses, the recognizance is not a remedy available," he said.
The Ombudsman is also expected to file a motion for the preventive suspension of the three indicted senators.
"Under the law and under decided jurisprudence, the Sandiganbayan has no discretion but to place the accused under preventive suspension. The preventive suspension, however, is for a limited period of 90 days. The rationale being that if the preventive suspension [is] without a period, then baka matapos na ang termino ng elected officials ay naka-suspend pa," Drilon said.
The preventive suspension would only last for 90 days, during which the suspended senators could not file bills. Their respective staff members could be assigned to another office since they are employees of the Senate, Drilon said.
When the 90-day suspension lapses, the senators could now file bills but could not cast their vote in Senate deliberations as physical presence is required in voting, Drilon said.
Drilon expects that the three senators won't hide or evade arrest, saying that they could still file for a petition for bail.
Except for the courtesies being requested, Drilon said the Senate will not "interfere in the process."
"The Senate has always taken the position that we will respect the rule of law. We will not interfere in the process," Drilon said.
Even with three senators not participating in deliberations of bills, Drilon said that it would not affect the passage of important pieces of legislation.