SC to Senate: Comment on Ong petition vs contempt


THE Supreme Court has directed the Senate to answer the petition filed by Pharmally Pharmaceutical  Corporation official Linconn Ong assailing its  orders citing him in  contempt, ordering his arrest and placing him under detention for allegedly testifying “falsely and evasively” on  his company’s multibillion-peso contracts with the government for pandemic-related
medical supplies.

SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the order was confirmed by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo following the magistrates’ regular en banc session on  Tuesday.

“As per Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the respondents in the petition filed by Linconn Ong were required by the Court to file their comment to the main petition and prayer for TRO [temporary restraining order],” Hosaka said.

The usual period given to respondents in a petition, according to Hosaka, is 10 days.

Ong named  Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon and the Senate sergeant-at-arms, retired Maj. Gen Rene Samonte.

Ong filed his petition through lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who earlier called  the Blue Ribbon Committee a “kangaroo court.”

In his petition, Ong asked the Court to declare null and void for being unconstitutional the implementation of Section 18 of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation, adopted via Senate Resolution No. 5 on August 9, 2010, as amended by Senate Resolution No. 145, adopted by the Senate on February 6, 2016, insofar as it punishes as contempt the act of testifying falsely or evasively.

Ong is also asking the Court to declare unconstitutional Section 6, Article 6 of the Rules of the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation also known as the Blue Ribbon Committee, adopted on August 14, 2019, insofar as it punishes as contempt the act of testifying falsely or evasively.

As immediate relief, he askedthe Court to issue a status quo ante order (SQA)—reverting to the order of things prior to the committee’s issuance of the contempt, arrest and detention order against him last September 10, 2021 or TRO and/or a writ of preliminary injunction—to enjoin the enforcement of the Senate order.

Ong said the contempt order by the committee and the punishment imposed on him can be considered an encroachment of the power of the judiciary.

He argued that under Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, where the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation emanates, mandates “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.”

Ong is currently detained at the Senate building in Pasay and has refused to further cooperate with the ongoing probe by the Senate.

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