MANILA - A group of lawyers has opposed Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV's plea for the Pasay City Prosecutor's Office to reconsider his indictment for inciting to sedition over remarks he made in the Senate last year.
Labor Undersecretary Jing Paras, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Manuelito Luna, and their group insisted that Trillanes' statements against President Rodrigo Duterte at the Senate on Sept. 5, 2018 were "not absolutely privileged" because the senator "was not performing his official duty, either as a member of Congress or as officer of any Committee."
"[P]arliamentary non-accountability cannot be invoked when the lawmaker's speech or utterance is made outside sessions, hearings or debates in Congress, extraneous to the 'due functioning of the (legislative) process," they said in a comment filed Monday.
"To participate in or respond to media interviews is not an official function of any lawmaker; it is not demanded by his sworn duty nor is it a component of the process of enacting laws," they added.
Paras' group had accused Trillanes of calling the President a “dictator" and of claiming that the killings of ordinary people and the detention of critics are commonplace in the country.
In addition, Trillanes allegedly asked the military and the police not to do anything illegal or unconstitutional.
The lawyers also accused Trillanes, a former Navy officer who led uprisings in 2003 and 2007, of secretly proposing to the armed forces to launch a coup against the President, although they did not cite evidence to back this claim.
Trillanes made the comments to the media while he was holed up in the Senate following Duterte's voiding of the former mutineer's amnesty.
The lawmaker's camp had earlier said his statements were covered by parliamentary immunity. The senator maintained the complaint is an act of harassment done by those loyal to the President.
Pasay City prosecutors, in a resolution dated Jan. 29, found probable cause to charge Trillanes for inciting to sedition.
The case was filed before the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 44 last Feb. 11.