Senators on Wednesday rejected the assertion of the legal counsel of Pharmally executive Linconn Ong that the Senate has no authority to arrest persons outside the Senate premises as siblings Mohit and Twinkle Dargani—company treasurer and president, respectively — reportedly went into hiding.
Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon described the statement of Ong’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, as absurd.
If a person is subpoenaed to appear in person to produce documents needed for an investigation does not appear, the Senate does not have to wait for that person to show up in the Senate building before citing him or her for contempt. If it did, he said, anyone could avoid accountability by simply not entering the Senate premises.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that as long as they are within the jurisdiction of the Philippines, the Darganis who have reportedly gone into hiding can be apprehended.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms retired Major General Rene C. Samonte said the Darganis went missing after they were ordered arrested for contempt charges on Tuesday for refusing to submit the documents that were subpoenaed by Gordon’s committee.
Mohit, Pharmally’s corporate secretary, and treasurer, and Twinkle, the firm’s president, insisted they are not refusing to submit the documents, but merely invoked their rights as advised by their legal counsel.
Samonte said they have not yet served the arrest orders against the Darganis as they were not found in any of their three condominium units as of Tuesday night.
“The condo staff and the security personnel have confirmed that they own the condominium units which are located in BGC and Greenhills. It appears that they are in hiding. That is why we will continue to look for them in the following days,” Samonte said.
While he is not the lawyer of the Darganis. Topacio warned that senators and the Senate sergeant-at-arms may face serious illegal detention charges if they arrest the two Pharmally executives.
In a virtual media briefing, Topacio said President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered law enforcers not to arrest resource persons who ignore the Senate’s subpoena.
He also cited the Supreme Court jurisprudence in the case of Neri vs. the Blue Ribbon Committee, saying detention can only be done if the person is in contempt of the Senate and is within its premises, while arrests cannot be done because the Senate sergeant-at-arms has no statutory authority to arrest anyone outside its premises.
“Mr. Mohit Dargani is outside of the Senate. The OSSA has no authority to take him into custody,” he said.
Topacio added that Dargani can only be arrested if a court issues an arrest warrant, or he is committing, just about to commit or has committed a crime.
“We are therefore warning the sergeant-at-arms, and any senator ordering the arrest of anyone outside of the Senate premises, that they can be charged with serious illegal detention, a non-bailable offense, if they detain any person at large,” he said.