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Inquisition in Congress

05:02 AM October 23, 2017

By happenstance, your interesting editorial, “When lawyers hide misdeeds” (Opinion, 10/20/17), appeared at the same time that a six-page piece, “A deadly campus tradition,” on frats (10/23/17) by Time came out on the stands.

Time presented both sides of the divisive frat issue, given the fatalities in the United States.

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The Manila police have solved the Horacio “Atio” Castillo III killing. What is the lawmaking body looking for? Investigate a hot-button issue in aid of legislation, or pure grandstanding? Is it a “misdeed” when a lawyer advises anyone to exercise his right to remain silent?

Why should the Bill of Rights, intact in a police station (supposedly), be checked at the door of Congress? “You have the right to remain silent…” should be good anywhere.

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The Senate is not the PNP-NBI writ large, to begin with.

In the United States, any guest can cite the Fifth, i.e., the right to remain silent. The US Congress, which cannot grant immunity, has to go to court to get it, which is routinely obtained. Only then may the guest be forced to speak.

In my view, as a human rights fanatic or addict, nowhere in our Constitution is Congress granted the right to detain one who exercises his human and constitutional right not to speak, unless guaranteed immunity. The Inquisition ended centuries ago elsewhere, but continues here?

Only an effectively immunized guest can be coerced to speak. I fail to find in the Constitution any language saying that Congress is empowered by it to grant immunity to one being pummeled and pilloried from pillar to post in a pell-mell legislative hearing.

The police have solved the crime. Splendid. Try the accused, who are presumed innocent and deserve due process.

That lawmakers can craft new laws following the tragic Atio case is beyond my intellectual reach. But, I am prepared to be surprised, in that we are not simply adopting the best thinking of centuries ago in some Star Chamber.

I am aware of the Arnault and Neri cases and it is time to clarify and refine the congressional power to cite for contempt. I believe we should adopt the American paradigm as more consistent with human rights.

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R.A.V. SAGUISAG, Palanan, Makati City

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TAGS: Aegis Juris, fraternities, hazing, Horatio Castillo III, Inquirer editorial, Inquirer letters, Rene Saguisag
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