MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 12:05 p.m.) Arvin Balag, the Grand Praefectus of the Aegis Juris fraternity, was released from Senate detention Thursday night on orders of the Supreme Court.
However, another Senate detainee, resigned Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, is likely to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in the chamber’s custody, sergeant at arms Jose Balajadia said.
Balag was detained October 18 after being declared in contempt by Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order, which conducted an inquiry into the hazing death of Aegis Juris recruit and University of Sto. Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III.
His release is temporary pending the high court’s resolution of the petition he filed against his detention by the Senate.
Balajadia said three lawyers fetched Balag after the Supreme Court en banc handed down its resolution.
Before being released, Balag underwent an examination by the Senate physician.
Balajadia said Lacson and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III were informed of the high court’s resolution and did not object.
Lacson confirmed he was informed of Balag’s release and “while we reserve our right to invoke the inherent power of the Senate (and Congress) to compel witnesses and resource persons to testify in our inquires in aid of legislation as provided for under our rules and anchored on Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution, we opted in the meantime to respect and comply with the SC resolution ordering the interim release of Balag even before its final ruling on the main case.”
“We did so, all in the spirit of Christmas not to mention our desire to avoid a constitutional crisis during this holiday season. Having said that, there is no saying that we are about ready to give up the rights of the legislature, being a co-equal branch of government. We will tackle this issue at the proper time as a collegial body,” Lacson added.
On the other hand, Balajadia said Faeldon, who was declared in contempt by the Blue Ribbon committee, which probed the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of crystal meth, or “shabu,” under Customs’ nose, had not put in a request to be allowed out of detention for the holidays.
Nevertheless, Balajadia said the family and lawyers of the former Customs chief would be allowed to visit him on December 24 and 25 and December 31 and January 1.
But Faeldon’s continued detention over the holiday will mean personnel of the office of the sergeant at arms will have to remain on duty during the holidays to guard the detainee.