Senator Richard Gordon on Sunday said the legal counsels of the two Pharmally executives who are detained at the Pasay City Jail should ask the Supreme Court to specifically clarify when the 18th Congress is suppose to end.
Gordon issued the challenge after Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani and Linconn Ong’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio claimed that the Senate is set to release his clients on June 3, as it is the end of the Third Regular Session of the Senate in the 18th Congress.
Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had earlier insisted that the end of the 18th Congress is on June 30 and not on June 3.
Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, pointed out that in the landmark ruling Arnault v. Nazareno (G.R. No. L-3820, July 18, 1950), “the Supreme Court En Banc did not find sound reason to limit the power of the legislative body to punish for contempt to the end of every session and not to the end of the last session terminating the existence of that body.”
“The Supreme Court added that the Senate is a continuing body and which does not cease to exist upon the periodical dissolution of the Congress,” Gordon stressed.
“There is no limit as to time to the Senate’s power to punish for contempt in cases where that power may constitutionally be exerted,” he further explained.
More than seventy (70) years later, Gordon noted the Supreme Court En Banc, in its wisdom, “has yet to overturn such elementary doctrine.”
“Congress is in the Third Session of the 18th Congress. This Congress ends at noon of June 30. Thus, any power that the Senate possesses and exercises does not end on June 3,” the senator insisted.
“If Counsel for any of those detained has a problem with that, let him go to court for a clear interpretation of when a particular Congress — this 18th Congress — ends,” he said.
Dargani and Ong have been cited in contempt and detained by the Senate after refusing to hand over documents being asked by the Senate in relation to its investigation on the government’s alleged overpriced procurement of Covid-19-related supplies.
The Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended the filing of charges against Dargani and Ong, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and some officials of the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Procurement Service.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said he believes Ong and Dargani should be released on June 3, which is when the Senate’s session for the Third Regular Session adjourns.
This elated Topacio, who then thanked Sotto for his announcement, and insisted on his clients’ innocence.
“It is our fervent prayer that notwithstanding the release of the our clients, the Supreme Court resolve our two pending petitions before it in a manner that will further limit the scope of the powers of the Legislature, by striking a happy balance between preserving its prerogatives as a lawmaking body, and ensuring that the exercise of such will not outrun the bounds of reason and result in sheer oppression,” Topacio had said.