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Answer Ong, SC directs Senate

Pharmally executive averred that the Senate violated his rights by jailing him for contempt



The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Senate to answer a petition filed by Pharmally Pharmaceuticals executive Linconn Ong questioning his arrest and incarceration for contempt.

Ong has been cited by the Senate for contempt for allegedly testifying “falsely and evasively” in connection with the government’s procurement of medical supplies for medical workers last year.

SC spokesperson, Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka, said the order was made by the SC during an en banc meeting Tuesday.

“As per Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the respondents in the petition filed by Linconn Ong were required by the Court to file their comment to the main petition and prayer for TRO (temporary restraining order),” Hosaka said.

Hosaka said that a period of 10 days with which to answer a petition is usually given to respondents.

Named respondents by Ong in a case he filed through lawyer Ferdinand Topacio were Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Richard Gordon and Senate sergeant-at-arms Rene Samonte.

Topacio earlier called the Blue Ribbon Committee a “kangaroo court,” with President Rodrigo Duterte lambasting its hearings on Pharmally as an avenue for senators seeking election next year to grandstand.

In his petition, Ong asked the SC to declare null and void for being unconstitutional the implementation of several Senate rules that punishes as contempt the act of testifying falsely or evasively.

Ong petitioned the court to issue a status quo ante order and/or a temporary restraining order on the decision by the Senate to arrest him last 10 September. He said the contempt order against him has no constitutional basis and that it violated his constitutional right to due process.

Likewise, he averred that the contempt order issued by the committee, as well as the punishment imposed against him, can be considered as an encroachment on the power of the judiciary.

He argued that under Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, mandates that “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.”