Linconn Ong, director of the embattled Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Inc., on Thursday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC), questioning his continued detention at the Philippine Senate building in Pasay City.
In a petition, Ong’s counsel Ferdinand Topacio claimed his client had not been formally invited by the Senate and learned only through media reports on Sept. 7 that during that day’s hearing, he was among those cited in contempt and ordered arrested and detained for refusing to appear the Aug. 27 and Sept. 7 hearings.Topacio said Ong attended the next hearing via videoconferencing on Sept. 10 without having received any subpoena or invitation.
During the hearing, the Senate panel ordered the arrest of Ong for evading questions on the government’s purchase of medical supplies for its pandemic response through Pharmally.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon allowed Ong to be put under house arrest after the Pharmally official claimed during the hearing that he was battling Covid-19.
On Sept. 21, Ong continued his detention in the Senate.
Topacio said Ong’s detention “is not for refusal to appear as, in fact, after he voluntary appeared.”
“He was nevertheless arrested and detained; is not for non-submission of documents nor refusal to be sworn or answer questions,” he added.
He also said there is no justifiable way that petitioner may purge himself of “testifying falsely and evasively” as he had always claimed that he was telling the truth.
Topacio said Gordon “in fact, publicly announced that petitioner’s (Ong) further testimony is not anymore needed in the investigation.”
“He (Gordon) was quoted as saying I don’t need you, Mr. Ong, you’re gonna need help,” Topacio said. “If the Committee is convinced that petitioner is guilty of false testimony, there is nothing that will prevent them from filing the appropriate cases against him (Ong) before the prosecutors and the courts.”
Aside from urging the SC to issue a status quo order, Topacio said the tribunal must rule on whether the act of the Senate of placing Ong under its custody is an “arrest” or “detention.”
“The distinction is not simply a matter of semantics. It is substantial, not conceptual, for it affect the fundamental right to be free from unwarranted governmental restraint,” the petition said.