19 senators stand by parliamentary immunity for speeches

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19 senators stand by parliamentary immunity for speeches

The senators also insisted that only Congress can discipline its members for unparliamentary conduct or disorderly behavior. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Nineteen out of 23 senators filed a resolution Wednesday, asserting that the absolute parliamentary immunity for speeches delivered in the upper 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," the 19 senators wrote.
The senators filed Resolution 697 less than a week after a Pasay City prosecutor's office recommended the filing of an inciting to sedition case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV over a privilege speech last year on President Rodrigo Duterte's alleged undeclared wealth.
In his speech quoted in the resolution, Trillanes said Duterte himself noted that if more than P40 million was found in his accounts, he could be shot and killed by the soldiers.
"So here’s the answer now. If the soldiers could see this, they will use the M60 machine gun on you. These are many. The magazines will be emptied if you're looking for P40 million, Mr. Duterte," the prosecutor's resolution quoted Trillanes as saying.
The senators also insisted that only Congress can discipline its members for unparliamentary conduct or disorderly behavior. 
Article 6, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution states that no member of the Senate or the House of Representatives "shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof."
The Senate, on its website, also said that members of Congress cannot be prosecuted for words spoken in speech or debate made in the exercise of their functions during session. 
"The purpose of this privilege of speech or debate is not to protect the members against prosecutions for their own benefit but to enable them as representatives of the people to execute the functions of their office without fear of prosecution, civil or criminal," it said. 
The resolution was filed by Sens. Franklin Drilon, Franklin Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Leila De Lima, Antonio Trillanes, Ralph Recto, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
A resolution communicates the sense, or sentiment, of the Senate but does not have the force of law.

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