MANILA If a proposed revision in the 1987 Constitution is approved and becomes part of the new Charter, Congress will have to honor judicial orders suspending any of its members.
Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, member of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) to review the 1987 Constitution, said the subcommittee he heads has approved in principle a provision that mandates Congress to enforce the lawful orders of competent judicial, quasi-judicial, or legislative authorities imposing sanction on any of its members.
Nachura, chair of the ConCom subcommittee on the structure of the federal government, said this proposed provision will be among those to be submitted to the en banc for final voting next week.
Before, nobody could force the Speaker or the Senate President to execute an order of suspension against a member, he said in a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Thursday.
With this proposal, if this is approved, the houses of Congress will have to honor any order imposing a sanction from any court or any quasi-judicial body, he added.
Nachura was referring to this proposed provision to be added to Section 17 of Article VI: The Legislative Department:
Notwithstanding any rule to the contrary, each house shall enforce the lawful orders of competent judicial, quasi-judicial, or legislative authorities imposing a sanction on any of its members.
Nachura explained that the provision in the current Constitution states that the Senate and House of Representatives shall have the power to promulgate its own rules and procedures and to determine whether members are guilty of disorderly behavior and to penalize members who are guilty of disorderly behavior either suspension which shall not last for over 60 days or expulsion, but expulsion must carry the two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate or the House.
However, in the proposed provision, he wanted to mandate the Congress of powers to also obey lawful orders from the courts against members who are facing charges in courts.
Meanwhile, another provision proposed by the subcommittee is to allow witnesses or resource persons in congressional inquiries who are detained for contempt to seek judicial relief.
In the draft Constitution, the proposed wording of the provision which will be added to Section 21 of Article VI: The Legislative Department, reads: Witnesses or resource persons ordered detained for alleged contumacious behavior during inquiry may seek relief from a court of general jurisdiction when the detention is patently unlawful or when its prolonged enforcement becomes unreasonable and constitutes a violation of due process.
Nachura said the subcommittee decided to include this provision to assure that the constitutional rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.
The former Associate Justice cited the case of Aegis Juris Fraternity leader Arvin Balag, who was cited in contempt on Oct. 18 last year and was in danger of being detained until Christmas until the Supreme Court stepped in to order his release. Balag, along with other fratmen, were being blamed in the hazing that caused the death of University of Santo Tomas freshman law student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III on Sept. 17 last year.
We are proposing resort to judicial relief recognizing rather the remedy that one can seek judicial relief if one feels that the detention is unlawful or has been unduly prolonged so that it becomes a violation of due process of law, Nachura said.
Recognition of judicial orders and judicial relief are only two of the many proposed provisions being deliberated by the subcommittee. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency