Senate arrest of Pharmally officials illegal, lawyer says


A LAWYER for one of Pharmally’s officials on Wednesday warned that senators ordering the arrest and detention of any witness not within the Senate premises when an alleged act of contempt was committed is liable for the non-bailable offense of serious illegal detention.

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, in a virtual news briefing on Wednesday, gave his legal opinion a day after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC), at its 12th hearing into pandemic fund contracts involving Pharmally, cited two of the company’s executives in contempt—Mohit Dargani and his sister Twinkle—for refusing to heed subpoenas for documents sought by the senators.

However, staff from the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms Office who went to the siblings’ known addresses at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig failed to find them on Thursday.

Topacio, meanwhile, issued “my legal stand on the arrest order against the Darganis,” stressing that these take certain premises into consideration:

1. The President, as Commander-in-Chief of all the uniformed armed forces in the country, has already ordered the police and military not to follow arrest orders from the Senate.

2.  This order is based on solid legal footing. In Neri v. Blue Ribbon Committee, the Supreme Court had already distinguished between the power of the Senate to detain and the power to arrest. The former can be done only if the person is in contempt of the Senate and he is within the premises of the Senate. As to arrests, the same cannot be done because there is no statutory authority for the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest anyone outside of the Senate premises.

3. Mr. Mohit Dargani is outside of the Senate. The Senate has no authority to take him into custody.

4. In light of the order of the President, neither may any law enforcement personnel arrest Mr. Dargani. A person can only be arrested under two circumstances: a. When he has a warrant for his arrest issued by a competent court; or b. When he is in flagrante delicto, meaning he is committing, just about to commit or has just committed a crime.

5. We are, therefore, warning the Sergeant-at-Arms, and any senator ordering the arrest of anyone outside of the Senate premises, that they can be charged with Serious Illegal Detention, a non-bailable offense, if they detain any person at large.

6.  Also, any person who may be subject to such arrest may resist the same, including the use of reasonable force, in order to secure and maintain his liberty. He may also enlist the aid of police to prevent his detention.

Topacio also lambasted Blue Ribbon Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon for the “piecemeal release” of Senate probers’ findings.

“The piecemeal release by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of its so-called findings on Pharmally should remove any doubts as to Gordon and his ilk’s conversion of the BRC into a kangaroo court,” Topacio complained.

“First, what took them so long?” he asked, noting that “the BRC has, for the longest time, been in possession of information sufficient to make a report.”

Second, he added: “Why don’t they release just one report, instead of releasing their findings piece-by-piece?”

Third, Topacio wants to know “why Sen. Gordon is the one interpreting his own findings, instead of allowing the proper government agency to act on the report,” reminding “the Senate is not a court [except of the marsupial kind] and that is why the report is addressed to the right agency concerned for appropriate action.”

“Fourth, why is there no completed draft of any proposed legislation that came out of the BRC’s comical exercise? All of these issues inescapably point to the fact that the inquiry was improperly used as a demolition job against the present administration, to project the candidacies of Gordon and company, and to milk the media mileage occasioned by the said investigation for political ‘pogi points.’ It was an abuse of authority of the most fiendish order. The BRC hearings and initial report, to quote Shakespeare, are nothing but “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” Topacio stressed.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

Leave a Reply