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Arrest of Pharmally execs voided by SC

Ferdinand Topacio

LAWYER Ferdinand Topacio said that the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision dated March 28, 2023 but released only recently, has declared the September 10, 2021 arrest order issued by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee against certain executives of pharmaceutical firm Pharmally as “nullified” for having been made “with grave abuse of discretion”.

Topacio said the twin petitions were filed by last 2021 by Pharmally executives Lincoln Ong and Michael Yao Hung Ming to question the said order of the committee which found him guilty of contempt of the Senate, and ordered his detention, first at the office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, and later on in the Pasay City Jail, while Yao remained at large.

In a 50-page decision penned by Associate Justice Henry Inting, the high tribunal, voting unanimously, said that while Congress undoubtedly has the power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation and to punish for contempt resource persons who give “vague and evasive answers”, the Blue Ribbon Committee “failed to accord (Ong and Yao) their rights in the conduct of the proceedings, more in the exercise of its contempt powers.”

The Supreme Court added that “legislative contempt is essentially criminal or punitive in nature” and “must be accorded stricter due process requirements, such as the opportunity to explain one’s side before being penalized.” The decision also said that the Committee’s grave abuse of discretion lay in its precipitate act of citing petitioners Ong and Yang in contempt and ordering their arrests without giving them the opportunity to be heard., Topacio said.

In a statement, Topacio, one of Pharmally’s counsels, thanked the Supreme Court for “truly being the last and most steadfast bastion of justice and the rule of law in our country.”

“The decision, unanimous as it is, is “a great step forward in curbing the abuses being foisted upon some resource persons who are being forced to testify in Senate proceedings in violation of their fundamental rights,.” he said.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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