An activist lawmaker and a human rights lawyer criticized the planned detention of the three senators charged with plunder and graft over the pork barrel scam in special cells at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Quezon City.
MANILA, Philippines — An activist lawmaker and a human rights lawyer criticized the planned detention of the three senators charged with plunder and graft over the pork barrel scam in special cells at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Quezon City.
Also, two leaders of the House of Representatives on Wednesday said they would block the bill being pushed by two party-list solons that seeks to establish high-profile detention centers in the country.
“The issue is propriety on where the accused would be detained. While the other detainees are cramped in small jails, you have here separate detention cells for the VIPs (very important persons),” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said in a phone interview.
“What message is the government trying to send the public — that if you want VIP treatment in jail, you commit bigger crimes?” he asked.
In a separate interview, lawyer Edre Olalia said: “It once again shamelessly demonstrates that if you are a suspected big-time crook or influential politicians belonging to the hoity-toity, you don’t run the risk of getting mixed up with the shirtless hoi polloi and endure what they are made to suffer.”
Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said the special treatment being readied for Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. could violate the equal protection clause in the Constitution and constitute double standards, which are inconsistent with the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners.
“We look forward to the day when the courts and this government would routinely send, as a matter of course, all accused, (including the) rich and famous, to regular jails just like everybody else. Then we can say that justice is blind without fear or favor to whom the sword falls,” he said.
The PNP earlier said that a four-room bungalow at Camp Crame that it presented as the detention facility for the senators was originally built as a barracks for officials of the Custodial Service Unit.
However, in a last-minute change, the PNP said it would allow the rooms to be occupied by the high-profile detainees.
High-profile detention centers
Meanwhile, Dasmarinas Rep. Elpidio Barzaga described the bill that seeks to establish high-profile detention centers in the country filed by Ako Bicol party-list representatives Rodel Batocabe and Christopher Kho as “discriminatory” claiming that it violates equal protection clause in the 1987 Constitution.
Barzaga insisted that the measure would only send a wrong signal to the public that there is nothing wrong for any public official to engage in criminal acts with heavy penalties because they will be separated from ordinary criminals.
“Where ever you look at it, the public will think that we are exercising double standard in our justice system,” Barzaga, a certified public accountant/lawyer said in a text message to House reporters.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice chairman of the House committee on Justice, said that the measure cannot be considered as a general policy that you will imprison persons committing high profile crimes in a special detention center for they know that the offense they committed is non-bailable.
“It is open to abuse. The law is created not to a particular individual or group of individuals who committed serious crimes but it was designed to all and equal whoever you are and whatever is your stand in the society,” Fariñas said.