BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Posted 5:55 p.m. Feb. 28, 2006
The ex parte inquest (inquest without the respondents) proceedings held at the House of Representatives (HOR) around 3:30 p.m. today regarding the rebellion charge filed against five party-list representatives was illegal, Neri Colmenares, general counsel of Bayan Muna (People First) said.
Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Joel Virador, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza and Anakpawis (toiling masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano have been charged by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Feb. 27 of rebellion for allegedly conspiring with some military officers to stage a coup against the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government Feb. 24.
The five representatives did not appear before Department of Justice (DOJ) Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño who conducted the inquest at House Speaker Jose de Venecia’s conference room.
Colmenares said the inquest was illegal and irregular because it presupposes arrest. On the contrary, he said the five solons should be protected from arrest because they have been in the Speaker’s protective custody since afternoon of Feb. 27.
In a separate interview, House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles said there was no statement from the House or the government that the five solons have been arrested.
As a matter of procedure, Colmenares said the five party-list representatives should have been subjected to a preliminary investigation wherein they will be formally notified individually of the formal charges being leveled against them. They should also be given the opportunity to file their counter-affidavit. The preliminary investigation would then determine whether there is probable cause to file a case in court. If probable cause is determined, the prosecution should then file a formal complaint to the proper court. It is the court that should issue a warrant of arrest.
“The Speaker has no authority to arrest people and the HOR is not a jail so there should not have been an inquest because nobody has been arrested in the first place,” Colemnares said.
At the regular session of the House, Rep. Teodoro Locsin (lone district, Makati City) said, “The duty of the House leadership is to assert the independence of this House and should assert that no member of this House should be arrested.”
“It is clear that Malacañang wants to deprive the solons of their right to a prelimanary investigation because the administration wants to get hold of them fast,” Colmenares said. “But they are not in hiding and they won’t escape anyway so why should they be in a hurry?”
Colmenares said the five solons will continue to assert their right to be under the protective custody of the Speaker.
However, Ocampo warned that they could still be arrested anytime. “We can protest but they can carry us bodily,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)