But cannot compel them to attend hearing
SAYING justices are not above the law, Senate President Franklin Drilon on Sunday announced that senators will investigate allegations of corruption in the judiciary because the chamber has the power to do so.
Any allegation of corruption, according to Drilon, falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (blue ribbon). He noted that the panel’s authority to look into wrongdoings also covers the judiciary.
The Senate chief, however, clarified that although the chamber can investigate allegations of corruption hurled against some magistrates, it cannot compel them to attend Senate hearings.
“We can send them invitations, but we cannot use our coercive power or subpoena power for them to attend the Senate hearings because we are observing the separation of powers and inter-departmental courtesies. It is up to the justices if they want to appear or not,” Drilon said in a radio interview aired over dzBB.
Drilon issued the statement days after Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th accused CA Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr. and Francisco Acosta of receiving P25 million each in exchange for issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction that stopped the Office of the Ombudsman from suspending Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay.
The two magistrates had denied the allegations. Binay, meanwhile, asked the CA to cite Trillanes in contempt for his baseless accusations.
Last week, Trillanes filed Senate Resolution 1265 directing the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights to investigate, in aid of legislation, the alleged practice of “justice for sale” in the judiciary, particularly at the appellate court.
The resolution, however, can only be acted upon when Congress resumes session on May 4. It is only after the resolution is referred to the proper committee that a hearing can be scheduled.
Sen. Francis Escudero said while allegations of corruption in the judiciary are not new, people should be very careful in making such accusations against members of the bench in order to protect the integrity of the courts.
He added that while the Senate has the authority to investigate the judiciary, it is only the Supreme Court that has the power to punish the justices and other members of the courts who engage in corrupt acts.
Escudero agreed with Drilon that no institution can stop the Senate from conducting an investigation of the judiciary as long as the inquiry is conducted in aid of legislation.