Press Release
September 12, 2006

Sabio arrest indicates Senate ready
to assert authority, says Drilon

Immediate past Senate President Franklin Drilon today said the arrest of Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairman Camilo Sabio indicated that the Senate "was prepared to assert its authority" in the pursuance of its function as a legislature under a democracy,

"They should have realized that the Senate was prepared to assert its authority," said Drilon, now chairman of the powerful Senate finance and public order committees, when asked to comment on Sabio's arrest.

"This is a warning to the bureaucracy that when summons are issued by the Senate, my friendly advice to all of you is to heed the summons because this is part of the function of the legislature."

Senate officers on Tuesday took into custody Sabio for repeatedly defying summons to appear before a panel investigating financial irregularities at the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat), reports said. Sabio did not resist arrest when officers of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms took him in.

The arrest warrant was jointly issued by Senate committees on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and on Public Services. It was served at Sabio's office in Mandaluyong City shortly before 11 a.m.

Drilon, who is also Liberal Party president, said more officials from the executive branch of government could face arrest if they continue to ignore summons issued by the Senate in the conduct of congressional inquiries.

Under the Senate rules, Drilon explained, Sabio will be detained at the Senate premises until such time that he would "cleanse" himself of his "contemptuous conduct by testifying before the Committee on Public Enterprises."

"Let me emphasize that the detention of Sabio is not a penalty but a means by which the Senate could enforce its rules and perform its function of requiring resource persons to appear before the Senate committees," Drilon said.

On reports that Sabio may invoke health reasons as an argument against his detention similar to the tact taken by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez when the latter was also arrested by the Senate several months ago, Drilon said: "We will take that up when the facts are presented before us. At this point, these are all speculations."

"The legal issue is our authority to compel the attendance of resource persons before our committee hearings in order to be able to perform our functions. They can always go to the Supreme Court if they do not agree with us," Drilon explained

Senate President Manuel Villar signed the motion filed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile seeking the arrest of Sabio, key officials of PCGG who had refused to show up at hearings on the "anomalous losses" of Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat).

Retired Gen. Jose Balajadia, Senate sergeant-at-arms, said two teams were separately dispatched to the offices of the PCGG and the Philcomsat Holdings Corp. which manages the state-run communications firm.

Balajadia also requested the police to provide assistance, but said the Senate will still be the party to enforce the arrest.

Four other PCGG commissioners sought by the Senate, however, were not in the office when Sabio was arrested. Apart from Sabio, PCGG Commissioners Ricardo Abcede, Nicasio Conti, Narciso Nario and Tereso Javier failed to attend the Senate hearing.

Similarly, PHC board chair Benito Araneta, vice president Philip Brodett, treasurer Manuel Andal, director Julio Jalandoni and director Luis Lokin Jr did not show up at the Senate hearing.

On Monday, Enrile asked the Senate government corporations committee to order the arrest for contempt of the PCGG and PHC officials for ignoring the Senate's subpoenas three times.

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