19 out of 23 solons sign resolution for absolute immunity vs. arrest while Congress is in session


By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent

Senators crossed partylines and signed a resolution expressing that the Senate’s absolute immunity for speeches delivered in the chamber must be “upheld and protected” at all times.

“The Senate must thwart any attempt to diminish its members’ constitutionally guaranteed right to parliamentary immunity and privilege from arrest as it is only with the fullest liberty of speech that legislators can effectively discharge their mandate,” read Senate Resolution No. 697 delivered by Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the Senate floor.

Nineteen out of the 23 senators affixed their signature on the five-page resolution. The four who did not sign were Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Majority Leader Vicente “Tito’ Sotto III, and Senators Richard Gordon and Francis Escudero, who all belong to the Majority bloc of the Senate.

Thirteen authors of the resolution belong to the majority bloc while six are from the minority bloc.

The 13 majority members are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The six opposition members are Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV and the still detained Leila de Lima.

The resolution noted that under Section 11, Article VI of the Constitution guarantees 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.”

“No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee hearings,” the particular section further reads.

Members of Congress, therefore, may not be prosecuted for any words spoken in speech or debate made in the exercise of their functions during session, whether in their respective chambers, in joint assembly, or in committee hearings, the resolution said.

The purpose of these privileges, it said, was to “ensure” the effective discharge of legislative functions by a member of Congress “free from vindictiveness or from the haunting fear that its most innocuous expressions may at any time afterwards place him in jeopardy of punishment.”

“Only Congress can take disciplinary action against its members for unparliamentary conduct or disorderly behavior, consistent with the Constitution’s recognition of the legislature’s autonomy, both in the formulation and application of its own rules,” the resolution added.

It also cited the case of Osmena vs. Pendatun, wherein it characterizes parliamentary immunity as a fundamental privilege cherished in every legislative assembly in a democratic world to enable and encourage a representative to discharge his public trust with firmness of success, protected from the resentment of everyone.

If also mentioned the case of Pobre vs. Santiago which reiterates the importance of parliamentary immunity in ensuring the effective discharge of legislative duties. It noted that without parliamentary immunity, parliament would degenerate into a polite and ineffective debating.