Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, including those in Congress, should not seek special treatment over anything, including traffic laws, Malacañang spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Tuesday.
Abella sounded off the call in response to a request of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte that authorities should not apprehend lawmakers over minor traffic violations.
Fariñas was quoted as saying “Pag nagpakilalang congressman siya at maipakitang talagang congressman, huwag ‘niyong dalhin sa presinto. Kasi ‘pag dinala sa presinto, hindi na siya makakapag-perform ng kanyang functions. Halimbawa, eh nakasagasa. Nasugatan ‘yung tao. ‘Pag nagpakilalang congressman yan, eh ‘di ‘tsaka na huhulihin [When a lawmaker introduces himself as a member of the House, don’t take the lawmaker to the precinct because he or she can’t perform legislative functions anymore. For example, the lawmaker’s vehicle ran into somebody and the victim was wounded. If the lawmaker presents himself/herself as a House member, you can arrest him or her later].”
Fariñas, a lawyer, added, “In minor offenses, especially in traffic [jams], if we introduced ourselves as lawmakers and made an appeal to you, provide us an escort. If the House member will argue that he is rushing to an important work in Congress, you should be of assistance so that we can do our jobs.”
“The President continues to live a modest lifestyle. He does not seek special treatment inside or outside the Palace. I hope our colleagues in Congress, especially our allies, could bring themselves to do the same,” Abella told reporters.
“The law is the law. [There should be] no special treatment,” he said.
Abella clarified that there is no directive from the Office of the President requiring the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) or the Department of Transportation (DOTr) not to heed Fariñas’ request.
Both the MMDA and the Transportation department are under the supervision of the Office of the President.
“At this stage, there are no actions regarding that matter. Well, let them [MMDA and DOTr], you know… let them proceed as necessary,” Abella said.
The Revised Penal Code states that reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
The country’s penal code provides that “any person who, by reckless imprudence, will commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony” will be imprisoned from six months to three years.
Fariñas has invoked Article 4, Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution, which states, “A senator or member of the House of Representatives should, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years’ imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while Congress is in session.”
Also, the 1987 Charter says, “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.”
Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said Fariñas’ suggestion only galvanizes the prevailing situation wherein the law tends to favor the rich.
“Our lawmakers should be honorable, starting by following our laws. Everyone is affected by horrible traffic jams, everybody has to attend to something important every day. We can’t give favors to anybody,” Zarate added in a statement.
Farinas’ proposal came under fire from Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
In a news briefing also on Tuesday at the House of Representatives, Lagman said there is no need for the proposal since a congressman being detained or arrested for a traffic violation is unheard of.
WITH REPORT FROM RALPH VILLANUEVA