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132875-76 February 3, 2000
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ROMEO G. JALOSJOS, accused-appellant. RESOLUTION YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: The accused-appellant, Romeo F. Jaloslos is a full-pledged member of Congress who is now confined at the national penitentiary while his conviction for statutory rape on two counts and acts of lasciviousness on six counts1 is pending appeal. The accused-appellant filed this motion asking that he be allowed to fully discharge the duties of a Congressman, including attendance at legislative sessions and committee meetings despite his having been convicted in the first instance of a nonbailable offense. The issue raised is one of the first impression. Does membership in Congress exempt an accused from statutes and rules which apply to validly incarcerated persons in general? In answering the query, we are called upon to balance relevant and conflicting factors in the judicial interpretation of legislative privilege in the context of penal law. The accused-appellant's "Motion To Be Allowed To Discharge Mandate As Member of House of Representatives" was filed on the grounds that ² 1. Accused-appellant's reelection being an expression of popular will cannot be rendered inutile by any ruling, giving priority to any right or interest ² not even the police power of the State. 2. To deprive the electorate of their elected representative amounts to taxation without representation. 3. To bar accused-appellant from performing his duties amounts to his suspension/removal and mocks the renewed mandates entrusted to him by the people. 4. The electorate of the First District of Zamboanga del Norte wants their voice to be heard. 5. A precedent-setting U.S. ruling allowed a detained lawmaker to attend sessions of the U.S. Congress. 6. The House treats accused-appellant as a bona fide member thereof and urges a co-equal branch of government to respect its mandate.
the latter customarily addressed as Congressmen. implication or equitable considerations. election is the expression of the sovereign power of the people. 9. and in going to and returning from the same. by itself. convicted under Title Eleven of the Revised Penal Code could not claim parliamentary immunity from arrest. Sec 15. the privileges and rights arising from having been elected may be enlarged or restricted by law. However. Having been re-elected by his constituents. felony. a free people expects to achieve the continuity of government and the perpetuation of its benefits. the exemption applied only to civil arrests. The Senators and Members of the House of Representatives shall in all cases except treason. VIII. Accused-appellant has always complied with the conditions/restrictions when allowed to leave jail. Because of the broad coverage of felony and breach of the peace. For offenses punishable by more than six years imprisonment.7. True. He adds that it cannot be defeated by insuperable procedural restraints arising from pending criminal cases. The history of the provision shows that privilege has always been granted in a restrictive sense. The restrictive interpretation of immunity and intent to confine it within carefully defined parameters is illustrated by the concluding portion of the provision. He calls this a covenant with his constituents made possible by the intervention of the State. he has the duty to perform the functions of a Congressman. In the exercise of suffrage. It may not be extended by intendment. The provision granting an exemption as a special privilege cannot be extended beyond the ordinary meaning of its terms. The primary argument of the movant is the "mandate of sovereign will. Privilege has to be granted by law. the greater is the requirement of obedience rather than exemption. legislative. Sec. We start with the incontestable proposition that all top officials of Government-executive. A Member of the Batasang Pambansa shall. 8. in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment. The immunity from arrest or detention of Senators and members of the House of Representatives. In fact. arises from a provision of the Constitution. and breach of the peace be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of Congress. He was subject to the same general laws governing all persons still to be tried or whose convictions were pending appeal. . and judicial are subject to the majesty of law. The 1935 Constitution provided in its Article VI on the Legislative Department. be privileged from arrest during his attendance at its sessions and in going to and returning from the same. . . Our first task is to ascertain the applicable law. to wit: . frees the official from the common restraints of general law. The 1973 Constitution broadened the privilege of immunity as follows: Art. The concept of temporary detention does not necessarily curtail the duty of accusedappellant to discharge his mandate. There is an unfortunate misimpression in the public mind that election or appointment to high government office. not inferred from the duties of a position. inspite of its importance. there was no immunity from arrest." He states that the sovereign electorate of the First District of Zamboanga del Norte chose him as their representative in Congress. the higher the rank. A congressman like the accused-appellant.
otherwise such privilege shall cease upon its failure to do so. confinement pending appeal is not removal. For relatively minor offenses. whether pending appeal or after final conviction. and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or misconduct. A person charged with crime is taken into custody for purposes of the administration of justice. otherwise.4 The accused-appellant states that the plea of the electorate which voted him into office cannot be supplanted by unfounded fears that he might escape eventual punishment if permitted to perform congressional duties outside his regular place of confinement. in the same way that preventive suspension is not removal. It can be readily seen in the above-quoted ruling that the Aguinaldo case involves the administrative removal of a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. is public selfdefense. inter alia. It also serves as an example and warning to others. However. which states. it must be assumed that they did this with the knowledge of his life and character. It is not the injury to the complainant. and under such penalties. but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day and may compel the attendance of absent Members in such manner. will not extricate him from his predicament. One rationale behind confinement. it is enough that Congress is in session. if he had been guilty of any. Gustilo. The accused-appellant argues that a member of Congress' function to attend sessions is underscored by Section 16 (2). The present Constitution adheres to the same restrictive rule minus the obligation of Congress to surrender the subject Congressman to the custody of the law. it has constitutional foundations. as such House may provide. Santos2. After conviction in the Regional Trial Court. Moreover. the accused-appellant has not given any reason why he should be exempted from the operation of Section 11. Accused-appellant's reliance on the ruling in Aguinaldo v. The requirement that he should be attending sessions or committee meetings has also been removed. Article VI of the Constitution which states that ² (2) A majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business. disqualified. The confinement of a Congressman charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than six months is not merely authorized by law. When a people have elected a man to office. It is not for the Court. He remains a congressman unless expelled by Congress or. by reason of such fault or misconduct. As stated in United States v. . To do otherwise would be to deprive the people of their right to elect their officers. . but the Batasang Pambansa shall surrender the member involved the custody of the law within twenty four hours after its adjournment for a recess or for its next session. the accused may be denied bail and thus subjected to incarceration if there is risk of his absconding. It does not apply to imprisonment arising from the enforcement of criminal law.. Society must protect itself. Article VI of the Constitution. .3 it is the injury to the public which State action in criminal law seeks to redress. The members of Congress cannot compel absent members to attend sessions if the reason for the absence is a legitimate one. to practically overrule the will of the people. that ² The Court should never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office.
to reiterate. at the NBP reservation. it . for official or medical reasons. There is no showing that the above privileges are peculiar to him or to a member of Congress. In this case. aside from its being contrary to well-defined Constitutional restrains. c) to undergo a thorough medical check-up at the Makati Medical Center. This can not be countenanced because. For this purpose. a full recognition of the necessity to have members of Congress. Necessarily the utmost latitude in free speech should be accorded them. to wit. He also calls attention to various instances. There is. Emergency or compelling temporary leaves from imprisonment are allowed to all prisoners. Morfe:5 The above conclusion reached by this Court is bolstered and fortified by policy considerations. entitled to the utmost freedom to enable them to discharge their vital responsibilities. Such an aberrant situation not only elevates accused-appellant's status to that of a special class. Quezon City. to wit: a) to attend hearings of the House Committee on Ethics held at the Batasan Complex. and likewise delegates to the Constitutional Convention. it would be a mockery of the aims of the State's penal system. a) to join "living-out" prisoners on "work-volunteer program" for the purpose of 1) establishing a mahogany seedling bank and 2) planting mahogany trees. What the accused-appellant seeks is not of an emergency nature. b) to undergo dental examination and treatment at the clinic of his dentist in Makati City. Accused-appellant argues that on several occasions the Regional Trial Court of Makati granted several motions to temporarily leave his cell at the Makati City Jail. b) to continue with his dental treatment at the clinic of his dentist in Makati City. When it comes to freedom from arrest. at the discretion of the authorities or upon court orders. Allowing accused-appellant to attend congressional sessions and committee meeting for five (5) days or more in a week will virtually make him free man with all the privilege appurtenant to his position. bowing to no other force except the dictates of their conscience of their conscience. after his transfer at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. Of particular relevance in this regard are the following observations of the Court in Martinez v. it is now the same body whose call he initially spurned which accused-appellant is invoking to justify his present motion. it also would be a mockery of the purposes of the correction system. he was assigned one guard and allowed to use his own vehicle and driver in going to and from the project area and his place of confinement. Ironically. c) to be confined at the Makati Medical Center in Makati City for his heart condition. when he was likewise allowed/permitted to leave the prison premises. accused-appellant commuted by chartered plane and private vehicle. he fled and evaded capture despite a call from his colleagues in the House of Representatives for him to attend the sessions and to surrender voluntarily to the authorities.It will be recalled that when a warrant for accused-appellant's arrest was issued. to be sure. d) to register as a voter at his hometown in Dapitan City. however. on the issue of whether to expel/suspend him from the House of Representatives. Makati City.
nêt No less than accused-appellant himself admits that like any other member of the House of Representatives "[h]e is provided with a congressional office situated at Room N-214. it suffices to answer that precisely all the safeguards thrown around an accused by the Constitution. manned by a full complement of staff paid for by Congress. nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of laws. In the ultimate analysis. He also claims that the concept of temporary detention does not necessarily curtail his duty to discharge his mandate and that he has always complied with the conditions/restrictions when he is allowed to leave jail. House of Representatives Complex. The accused-appellant avers that his constituents in the First District of Zamboanga del Norte want their voices to be heard and that since he is treated as bona fide member of the House of Representatives. such a virtue is of the essence. the latter urges a co-equal branch of government to respect his mandate. solicitous of the rights of an individual. Quezon City. There is likely to be no dissent from the proposition that a legislator or a delegate can perform his functions efficiently and well. To give a more drastic illustration. he is to be treated like any other citizen considering that there is a strong public interest in seeing to it that crime should not go unpunished. if voters elect a person with full knowledge that he suffering from a terminal illness. It is trite to say that in each and every manifestation of judicial endeavor. New Bilibid Prison. they would be considered immune during their attendance in Congress and in going to and returning from the same.would amount to the creation of a privileged class. they did so with full awareness of the limitations on his freedom of action. It also appears that he has been receiving his salaries and other monetary benefits. he may no longer serve his full term in office. the issue before us boils down to a question of constitutional equal protection. Neither partiality not prejudice shall be displayed. where he attends to his constituents. North Wing Building. . When the voters of his district elected the accused-appellant to Congress." Accused-appellant further admits that while under detention. Batasan Hills. accused-appellant should not even have been allowed by the prison authorities at the National Penitentiary to perform these acts. 1âwphi 1. accused-appellant has been discharging his mandate as a member of the House of Representative consistent with the restraints upon one who is presently under detention. if notwithstanding their liability for a criminal offense. Should such an unfortunate event come to pass. To the fear that may be expressed that the prosecuting arm of the government might unjustly go after legislators belonging to the minority. they do so knowing that at any time. Does being an elective official result in a substantial distinction that allows different treatment? Is being a Congressman a substantial differentiation which removes the accused-appellant as a prisoner from the same class as all persons validly confined under law? . The Constitution guarantees: ". would constitute an obstacle to such an attempt at abuse of power.7 The organs of government may not show any undue favoritism or hostility to any person. Succinctly stated. he is also provided with an office at the Administration Building. Muntinlupa City. They did so with the knowledge that he could achieve only such legislative results which he could accomplish within the confines of prison. he has filed several bills and resolutions. We remain unpersuaded. without justification in reason. . Through [an] inter-department coordination."6 This simply means that all persons similarly situated shall be treated alike both in rights enjoyed and responsibilities imposed. Being a detainee. without the need for any transgression of the criminal law. The presumption of course is that the judiciary would remain independent.
11 More explicitly. charged with the duties of legislation. Never has the call of a particular duty lifted a prisoner into a different classification from those others who are validly restrained by law. The importance of a function depends on the need to its exercise. The functions and duties of the office are not substantial distinctions which lift him from the class of prisoners interrupted in their freedom and restricted in liberty of movement. A doctor with unique skills has the duty to save the lives of those with a particular affliction. or of his free action according to his own pleasure and will. . A police officer must maintain peace and order. As a punishment. It includes the notion of restraint within limits defined by wall or any exterior barrier. The accused-appellant asserts that the duty to legislative ranks highest in the hierarchy of government. The necessities imposed by public welfare may justify exercise of government authority to regulate even if thereby certain groups may plausibly assert that their interests are disregarded.8 The Court cannot validate badges of inequality.9 We.17 Premises considered. the instant motion is hereby DENIED. The duty of a mother to nurse her infant is most compelling under the law of nature. coercion exercised upon a person to prevent the free exercise of his power of locomotion. including the police power of the State. Necessarily. it is restraint by judgment of a court or lawful tribunal. The accused-appellant is only one of 250 members of the House of Representatives. as well as of attempting to provide rehabilitation that prepares inmates for re-entry into the social mainstream. Depending on the exigency of Government that has to be addressed.The performance of legitimate and even essential duties by public officers has never been an excuse to free a person validly in prison. we are constrained to rule against the accused-appellant's claim that reelection to public office gives priority to any other right or interest. changes an individual's status in society. Lawful arrest and confinement are germane to the purposes of the law and apply to all those belonging to the same class. by its nature.10 Imprisonment is the restraint of a man's personal liberty. is the restraint of one's liberty.13 Imprisonment is the detention of another against his will depriving him of his power of locomotion14 and it "[is] something more than mere loss of freedom. not to mention the 24 members of the Senate. the President or the Supreme Court can also be deemed the highest for that particular duty. SO ORDERED. A strict scrutiny of classifications is essential lest wittingly or otherwise. therefore. both these demands require the curtailment and elimination of certain rights. insidious discriminations are made in favor of or against groups or types of individuals. and is personal to the accused. "imprisonment" in its general sense. find that election to the position of Congressman is not a reasonable classification in criminal law enforcement. The duties imposed by the "mandate of the people" are multifarious. Congress continues to function well in the physical absence of one or a few of its members. any prevention of his movements from place to place. WHEREFORE.12 The term refers to the restraint on the personal liberty of another.16 Prison officials have the difficult and often thankless job of preserving the security in a potentially explosive setting."15 It can be seen from the foregoing that incarceration. An elective governor has to serve provincial constituents.