Supreme Court Orders Senate to Explain Gonzales' Detention

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Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN

The Supreme Court issued yesterday a writ of habeas corpus and directed the Senate to present before the court on Tuesday next week and justify in a public hearing on the same day the detention of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales.

Gonzales was cited in contempt by the Senate's Blue Ribbon Committee for his refusal to answer questions on a contract with an American firm last Sept. 21 and was ordered detained. His blood pressure shot up and was rushed to the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City where he has been confined under guard of the Senate marshals.

The High Court also directed the Senate committee "to submit to the court, on or before 12 noon of 10 October 2005, the transcripts of stenographic notes of the proceedings related to the testimony of herein petitioner Norberto B. Gonzales."

In addition, the Senate's Blue Ribbon Committee was required by the High Court to submit on Oct. 10 its answer to the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Gonzales himself, through his lawyer Antonio Bautista.

In his petition, Gonzales said he was forced to elevate his case to the High Court after the Blue Ribbon Committee refused to heed his plea for a reconsideration of the detention order.

"The intense questioning of petitioner [Gonzales] by the respondent Blue Ribbon Committee last September 21 had caused him to suffer a mild stroke.... It is unclear at this time when he would be able, if at all, to return to the committee for further questioning," the petition stated.

Gonzales argued that his detention was illegal as it breached the doctrine of separation of powers between the legislative and the executive branches of the government.

"In its order for detention... the Senate seeks to breach by coercion executive privilege which belongs to the President, a co-equal branch of government," Gonzales said.

He pointed out that he did not evade the questions of the senators on the contract with Venable LLP. He added he merely invoked executive privilege to avert adverse implications on the national security.

At the same time, Gonzales pointed out that Article VI, Section 22 of the Constitution which provides for the appearance of the head of a department before Congress and its committees could not be made mandatory. …