MANILA - Human rights lawyers Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag – both also former senators – slammed what they see as increasing human rights violations in the Senate.
Arroyo, Saguisag, and other members of the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism (MABINI) were present at the Senate on Thursday to assess the situation after the arrest of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay for contempt.
Binay’s father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, was himself a member of the Mabini lawyers – a take on the name of Philippine hero, Apolinario Mabini, and was formed in 1980 to address human rights cases during the Marcos years.
Saguisag and Arroyo clarified they did not go to the Senate to lawyer for the younger Binay. They said they came as observers amid news of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s unfair treatment of resource persons.
The mayor was served a warrant of arrest on Thursday after being cited in contempt for snubbing previous hearings on the alleged corruption in Makati.
Binay was seen on video forcibly taken to the hearing room. After explaining his side, he was allowed to go home.
“Our role here is to prevent violations of the Constitution, violations of human rights, violations of civil liberties and downgrading of governance. We have noticed that it is increasing and we are disturbed – violations of the Constitution, violations of human rights, violations of civil liberties, and downgrading of governance. It is increasing and we are disturbed,” Arroyo said.
"Parang umiiral na naman ang walang habas na batas militar sa Senado," Saguisag added.
BLUE RIBBON 'VIOLATIONS'
Arroyo cited the need for an impartial judge to determine the fault of an accused. "You are a judge hearing a case. You can’t pronounce that one is already guilty and then hear a case."
He noted the many violations of the Blue Ribbon Committee, including the refusal to give the resource persons advance copies of the questions they might have to thresh out during hearings.
"There were a lot of instances where the committee committed violations. I should know because I was chairman for eight years."
The former senator said the current situation is different from when senators challenged the Executive Order 464 during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The EO bans officials from the Executive from appearing sans a consent from the president.
"In the absence of the right to information, you have to request to see other means… The committee had been issuing subpoenas [for documents]… the city of Makati has been faithfully complying with all of them," he said.
Arroyo noted the Blue Ribbon Committee room is full of documentary evidence, that it would even be impossible for members to go through all of them.
Saguisag added, “Yung tatawagin ka to use your own mouth as a tool of your own condemnation represented the best thinking of the Torquemada and the [Spanish] inquisition. But this is 2015."
He said it was fortunate that the senators handling the Binay probe let go the Makati mayor. He said they would have been ready to file a writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court.
"We are not fault finders. That’s why if you ask us if they’re innocent or guilty, we don’t know. What we expect is a fair hearing in the committee. The moment they cross the line is no longer fair, perhaps we will [file cases]. Otherwise, we stay on the sidelines," Arroyo added.