MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) maintained Tuesday that Quezon City 1st District Rep. Vicente “Bingbong” Crisologo was not covered by parliamentary immunity from arrests because Congress was not in session during his May 12 arrest.
READ: Crisologo, son arrested for alleged vote-buying of poll watcher | QC mayoral bet Crisologo arrested for alleged obstruction of justice, PNP clarifies
At a House inquiry, Quezon City Police District Director Brigadier General Joselito Esquivel, Jr. said they were aware of the immunity of Congress members from arrests under Sec. 11, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.
The provision states that a “Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session.”
READ: Crisologo urges House to probe his arrest
“The good congressman himself pointed out that this present Congress is no longer in session because it has adjourned from February 19, 2019, to May 19, 2019,” Esquivel told the public order and safety panel.
“Therefore he is no longer covered by the parliamentary immunity at the time of his arrest for vote buying and selling (violation of Sec. 261 of the Omnibus Election code), obstruction of justice, unjust vexation, disobedience and resistance under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, direct assault upon an agent of person in authority and illegal detention,” he added.
Esquivel stressed that no one, not even the police, is above the law.
“We are not above the law. In fact, no one is above the law. In enforcing the law which Congress passed, we may get the ire of those whom we arrested. We may be harassed so that the cases we filed may be withdrawn, but we will stand when we are right! When we are wrong we accept full responsibility of our action,” he added.
In denouncing his arrest on the eve of the May 13 elections, Crisologo, who lost to Quezon City Mayor-elect Joy Belmonte, argued in a May 20 privilege speech that Congress is only not in session when it adjourns sine die. The 17th Congress’ sine die adjournment is from June 8 to July 21. Congress was on an election break from February 9 to May 19.
Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. backed Crisologo and cited Article 6, Section 15 of the Constitution.
“In other words, Congress is not in session when we adjourn sine die. We did not adjourn sine die so he was still immune from arrest,” he said.
But the chair of the committee, Antipolo City 2nd District Rep. Romeo Acop, said this was only Pichay’s opinion and “other jurisdiction may have other interpretations.”
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Major General Guillermo Eleazar for his part backed Esquivel.
“We shared the same view with them sir… during the time sir (you don’t have immunity),” he said.
PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management Director Elmo Sarona, who said he was authorized by PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde to speak for him, said the top cop also supports Esquivel’s position.
In the same hearing, Crisologo said arresting officers did not read him and his 43 arrested supporters the Miranda warning. Some 15 of the arrested supporters were also present at the hearing and testified that they were not informed of their rights at the time of arrest.
“The Miranda rights are not read, all other accusations are already invalid because there was already a violation of the right to remain silent,” the outgoing lawmaker claimed.
But in the end, Crisologo clarified that the hearing was just aimed at seeking an improvement to existing laws safeguarding the rights of people to due process and not to vilify the police force.
“We’re not saying na masama kayong tao (that you’re bad people), we’re just trying to see if we can legislate more,” he said.
The National Police Commission and the NCRPO are conducting separate investigations into the issue. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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