Senate ethics panel puts on hold Faeldon's complaints

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate ethics committee held in abeyance its actions on the complaints filed by former Bureau of Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon against Senators Panfilo Lacson and Antonio Trillanes IV for "disrespecting" the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III pushed for the dismissal of Lacson's case but Minority Leader Franklin Drilon moved that the panel put on hold any decision until Faeldon testifies.

"In the present complaint, I think the way to go is to dismiss and not hold in abeyance," Sotto said.

“He has disregarded the process of the Senate when he refused to appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee. To me, he has no right to come to this committee and ask for the remedy of disciplining a colleague when he himself does not recognize that process,” Drilon said during the committee meeting on Monday, September 25.

Faeldon has strongly refused to attend the Senate blue ribbon hearings on the P6.4-billion worth of smuggled shabu from China and the corruption in the agency even as the illegal entry happened under his term.

Faeldon said he would rather be detained than answer questions from Lacson and opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who have both implicated him in corruption activities in the bureau.

If the former BOC chief continues to disrespect the body, Sotto said the complaint would be "totally dismissed."

“The members of the committee have spoken. Ang bottom line sa sinasabi ni Senator Drilon, he just has nice words, ang sinasabi diyan parang, di man lang namin ico-consider. Hindi mo kami kinikilala eh, 'Di mo nirerespeto Senado. Ba't namin irerespeto complaint mo? Kung ire-respeto mo Senado, icconsider namin complaint mo,” Sotto said.  (Why will we consider Faeldon's complaints? You did not recognize us. You don't respect the Senate. Why will we respect your complaint? If you decide to respect the Senate, we will reconsider your complaint.)

Other members present were Senators Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Gregorio Honasan.

All senators present have criticized Faeldon’s deliberate non-appearance before the Senate committee.

“Former Commissioner Faeldon has to do something better than this. His non-appearance indicates some degree, to my mind, bad faith. Payag ako dun [na] i-hold in abeyance,” Honasan said. (I agree with holding our decision in abeyance.)

He’s seeking a relief against a (Senate) colleague pero yung pinapakita niyang ugali di naman tumatapat. 'Di nagbibigay ng karampatang respeto,” Hontiveros said. (He wants the Senate to help him because he felt he was disrespected. But he himself does not respect the Senate.) 

Privilege speech

Sotto said he personally believes the ethics case of Faeldon has “no substance.”

In his complaint, Faeldon slammed Lacson for the "lies" in his privilege speech, in which the senator accused Faeldon and other BOC officials, of receiving "tara" or bribe money in exchange for smooth transactions involving shipments.

In pushing for his case, Faeldon said lawmakers and their privilege speeches are not completely immune from suit, citing the suspension of former representative Sergio Osmeña Jr following a privilege speech attacking then president Carlos Garcia in 1960.

But Sotto contradicted this and said Osmeña's case was covered by the 1935 and not the 1987 Constitution.

Sotto cited Article VI, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that "no Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress or in any committee thereof."

Faeldon has also filed an ethics complaint against his former friend, Trillanes, on Monday, September 25, for accusing him of corruption. The Senate ethics panel said they would also put the said complaint on hold. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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