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Pharmally’s Ong questions Senate detention before SC

DETAINED. Senate security men escort Linconn Ong (center), director of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., to the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms on Sept. 21, 2021. Ong was ordered arrested by the Blue Ribbon Committee for his alleged refusal to answer questions regarding the company’s contracts with the government. (Photo courtesy of Dick Gordon Facebook)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has asked the Senate to give its side on the petition filed by Linconn Ong, director of embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., questioning his continued detention for contempt at the Senate building in Pasay City.

SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka on Tuesday said “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)”.

The Senate was given 10 days to respond.

Ong was arrested on September 21 at his residence while attending the hybrid hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on alleged overpriced and anomalous sale of medical equipment by Pharmally to the government.

He was officially held at the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms at 3 p.m.

Aside from urging the SC to issue a status quo order, Ong’s counsel, Ferdinand 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 affects the fundamental right to be free from unwarranted governmental restraint,” the petition read.

In previous interviews, Topacio claimed his client was not formally invited by the Senate and learned only through media reports that he was among those cited in contempt and ordered arrested and detained for refusing to appear during the August 27 and September 7 hearings.

Even without subpoena or invitation. Topacio said Ong attended the next hearing via videoconferencing on September 10, when the Senate panel ordered the arrest of Ong for evading questions.

Committee chair Senator Richard Gordon allowed Ong to be put under house arrest first after the Pharmally official claimed he was battling Covid-19.

Topacio said Ong’s detention “is not for refusal to appear as, in fact, he voluntary appeared”.

“He was nevertheless arrested and detained, not for non-submission of documents nor refusal to be sworn or answer questions,” Topacio added. (PNA)

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