Drilon seeks Senate probe on reduced sentence of convicted rapist ex-Mayor Sanchez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   623

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday said he will file a resolution calling on the Senate to probe the reduction of sentence of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a rape and murder convict.

Drilon questioned the applicability of the Republic Act 10592 to Sanchez who was previously reported to have been involved in the smuggling of illegal drugs and other contrabands inside his jail cell.

“Ang balita ay involved siya sa drug trade sa Muntinlupa. Paano naman nakaroon siya ng allowance for conduct of good behavior? Ang balita pa natin ay mayroon siyang aircon sa kaniyang kulungan. Paano naman naging good conduct ito?” Drilon said in media interviews.

Drilon cited the allegations of possession of illegal drugs against Sachez in 2006 when a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. In 2010, he was again caught with P1.5 million worth of shabu.

Five years after, authorities seized an air conditioning unit and a television set from his cell.

Drilon said he wondered how the Bureau of Pardon and Parole arrived in its computation of Sanchez’s good conduct time allowance.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Sonny del Rosario said that the convicted mayor has already served 48 years following the computation of his good conduct time allowance.

“Paano natin mako-consider na good behavior ‘yun? Is Mayor Sanchez really qualified under RA 10592? This is a question of fact, so it is best for the Department of Justice to put on hold its decision until these issues are resolved,” the senator said.

Sanchez was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez. He has been in jail for 25 years for seven terms of reclusion perpetua.

Drilon was the country’s Justice secretary during Sanchez’s conviction.

“I became close with the Sarmenta family in our efforts to put behind bars Mayor Sanchez and his men. I felt sorry for the Sarmenta and Gomez families. This has reopened old wounds,” he added.

The lawmaker appealed to the Department of Justice to put on hold the release of Sanchez pending the review of his qualifications.

“We appeal to the Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra to hold the release of Sanchez and to review and study carefully if, number one, Sanchez is really entitled to the benefits of RA 10592; and, number two, if he has really exhibited good conduct while he is in prison,” he said.

SolGen move to gag ABS-CBN won’t stop Senate from probing franchise issue —Drilon

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2020

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said that the move by the Office of the Solicitor General asking the Supreme Court to gag the ABS-CBN Corporation will not stop the Senate from requiring persons to appear and testify during its hearing on the issue.

“The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation,” Drilon said in a statement.

“The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” he added.

Drilon issued the statement after Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the SC to stop ABS-CBN and other parties concerned from discussing the quo warranto petition which seeks to void the broadcasting network’s franchise over its alleged violations.

Calida’s move follows the decision of the Senate committee on public services to hear the issue on ABS-CBN’s application for the renewal of its franchise, and the filing of a Senate resolution which seeks to extend the validity of the company’s franchise until the end of 2022.

ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise is set to expire on March 30, 2020.

Drilon said that even if the Supreme Court issues a gag order, it will not cover the hearings in the Senate.

“Such gag order, if ordered, cannot serve as a prohibition for ABS-CBN to appear and testify before the Senate panel,” he said.

He also emphasized that the Constitution and various jurisprudence have many times upheld the power of the Senate to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation and to exercise its oversight power.

The senator cited Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure.

He also stressed that it is the duty of the witnesses and resource persons to cooperate with the Senate in its efforts to obtain the facts needed for intelligent legislative action.

Resolution seeking to extend ABS-CBN franchise to end of 2022 filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A resolution seeking to extend the franchise of media network ABS-CBN Corporation up to the end of 2022 has been filed at the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday said he filed Senate Joint Resolution No. 11 which seeks to extend the validity of the ABS-CBN franchise until December 31, 2022, in order to give Congress enough time to study the various bills seeking the renewal of franchise it granted to the network.

He noted there are only 12 session days left before Congress adjourns its sessions on March 14.

Republic Act 7966, enacted into law on March 30, 1995, grants the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation a franchise “to construct, operate and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, television and radio broadcasting stations in and throughout the country. The term of the franchise is for 25 years, which is set to expire on March 30, 2020.

“On March 30, 2020, more than 11,000 families will go home jobless and millions of viewers will be affected if we do not act on this resolution immediately, I, therefore, urge for the immediate passage of this resolution,” Drilon said.

The senator filed the resolution a few days after Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned ABS-CBN’s compliance with its franchise terms.

Calida filed a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to forfeit the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, citing alleged violations.

The high court has asked the media company to comment on the Solicitor General’s petition.

Several lawmakers have argued that the mandate to review, grant and revoke franchises is exclusive to the legislative branch.

Some also said that the media giant may still continue its operations pending the approval of its application for renewal.

Drilon said there are 12 bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise still pending in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises. A counterpart bill at the Senate also remains pending at the committee level.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe has pushed for a separate probe into ABS-CBN’s franchise and operations issue to determine its compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise.

Poe earlier called on her fellow legislators to make their assurances concrete by declaring it verbally or putting it into writing.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman ‘yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakasulat sa batas,” she said.

Senators to question VFA termination before Supreme Court – Drilon

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senators from both sides of the political fence are planning to file a petition questioning before the Supreme Court the country’s termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States without the concurrence of the Senate, Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon said.

In a statement on Sunday, Drilon revealed the planned petition will be a “bipartisan move” in asserting the Senate’s role in foreign policy, adding that he will join Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other administration senators in filing the petition.  

“While the President is the chief architect of our foreign policy, the Constitution is clear that such a very critical role is shared with Congress, particularly the Senate,” Drilon said.

In an interview over radio station DWIZ on Saturday, Drilon bared that Sotto told him about the petition he is preparing and asked him to be a co-author, which he agreed to.

Sotto earlier said that other senators who are members of the majority bloc are interested in joining them in contesting the scrapping of the military pact.

Drilon believes that it is only the Supreme Court can rule with finality on the issue since the Philippine Constitution is “silent” when it comes to the termination of treaties and international agreement.

“We cannot continue putting the fate of critical treaties such as the VFA, which termination has far-reaching consequences, in the hands of one man,” he said.

“It is our firm belief that if treaties and international agreements the President entered into cannot be valid without the approval of the Senate, the termination of, or withdrawal from, the same should only be effective with the concurrence of the Senate,” he stressed.

Once ratified and concurred in by the Senate, a treaty or an international agreement becomes part of the law of the land.

Hence, a treaty may not be undone without that shared power that put it into effect, Drilon added.

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