Yang asks SC to void Senate arrest orders; stop panel’s inquiry into properties, records

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Atty. Raymond Fortun filed Michael Yang's petition before the Supreme Court on his behalf.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — Ex-presidential adviser Michael Yang filed a petition on Thursday before the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the arrest orders issued against him by the Senate amid his involvement in their probe on the COVID-19 response fund controversy.

“What is happening now is that the Senate is making it a spectacle. For whatever purpose, kayo na po ang mag-isip pero ‘yun pong tinatanong na po nila ay no longer in aid of legislation,” Yang's lawyer Raymond Fortun said after filing the petition.

[Translation: For whatever purpose, you be the one to judge but what they’re asking (him) is no longer in aid of legislation.]

The 48-page petition argues the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee had committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction with its issuance of arrest orders “despite lack of legal basis."

READ: Senate orders arrest of Michael Yang, five others for snubbing hearing on pandemic deals

READ: Ex-Duterte adviser Michael Yang lent money to pay for COVID-19 supplies, says Pharmally chief

The filing, which also seeks to void the lookout order issued by the Bureau of Immigration, noted this issuance was made sans any criminal charges filed against Yang in court.

The Senate panel was likewise accused of arbitrary application of its internal rules, which the petition argues deprived Yang of his constitutional right to counsel.

The petition also noted the Senate committee’s supposed “high-handed and oppressive conduct of proceedings” which violated the embattled Chinese businessman’s right to be heard. It also questions how Yang was treated by senators “worse than an accused in a criminal proceeding.”

Yang was also allegedly compelled to answer questions and submit documents and information beyond the probe’s scope “in clear violation of his rights to privacy,” it added.

The Chinese businessman also expressed hopes in the petition that the high court will order the Senate panel to desist from further compelling him to adhere to a letter issued on Nov. 9 demanding the production of documents and information pertaining to his properties, companies owned or beneficially owned and donations made by these firms to the Philippines.

Fortun clarified that his client is in Davao City and that he is not in hiding, adding Yang “intends to attend every hearing” when asked if he would be present at the Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing on Friday afternoon.

The lawyer emphasized this does not mean his client will reveal everything, citing his right to privacy and protection of these rights in the public’s view.

“Lahat naman po ng tanong ay sinasagot niya base sa kanyang pagkakaintindi. Makikita nyo naman ang kanyang demeanor kung ito ay masasagot niya, sasagutin naman niya,” said the lawyer.

[Translation: He answers all questions addressed to him based on his understanding. You can see from his demeanor that if he could answer them, he would answer them.

Hindi naman po niya tinatalikuran ang kapangyarihan ng Senado na magtanong nitong mga bagay na ito,” assured Fortun.

[Translation: He is not turning his back on the Senate’s power to ask questions on matters like this.]

In a separate statement, panel member Sen. Risa Hontiveros maintained the Senate's oversight powers are "well-settled in law and jurisprudence."

"The resource persons’ evasiveness and their resistance to cooperate with our investigation come at actual great cost to the government — di ba mga CPA na nga nagsasabi na may utang na higit ₱5 billion sa gobyerno? Hindi ito barya kaya hindi din tayo titigil sa pagpapanagot sa kanila," she expressed.

RELATED: Senator: Pharmally did not pay taxes last year, Yang only paid ₱7,600 tax for ₱208,000 income in 2018

[Translation: Were it not Certified Public Accountants that said they owe the government over ₱5 billion? This is not just spare change so we really must not stop holding them to account.]

Yang is among the individuals at the heart of the legislative inquiry into alleged anomalies surrounding the government’s medical supply procurement during the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee had been eyeing charges against him and other personalities after several hearings into the controversy.