Ex-Customs chief Faeldon seeks review of legislative immunity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — Former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon wants senators to be held accountable if they spread wrong information during privilege speeches.

"What I want the public to discuss is the limitation of this immunity we are granting to our legislators," Faeldon told CNN Philippines' The Source Wednesday.

He also said those accused by senators should be protected too.

"Let's come up with some provisions there that safeguard the welfare of their subjects, the innocent resource persons," he continued. "If they can just invoke their parliamentary immunity, we have privileged liars in the Senate and Congress."

Some legislators had behavior that was "not statesmanlike," Faeldon added, but he declined to drop names.

The former Customs commissioner is fresh out of six months in detention. He was cited in contempt after refusing to attend Senate hearings on the P6.4-billion drug shipment that slipped past the Bureau of Customs.

Prior to his detention, he had a verbal spat with Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Senator Richard Gordon. He accused the senator of "monologuing" and "exaggerating" claims.

He also filed an ethics complaint against Senators Ping Lacson and Antonio Trillanes, both of which have been dismissed.

Related: Senate ethics body junks Faeldon's complaints vs. Lacson, Trillanes

Lacson had accused Faeldon and other Customs officials of corruption in an August 23 privilege speech.

"When he came out with this privilege speech, our only legal means is to [go to the] Supreme Court [or] Ethics [Committee]," said Faeldon. "There's not enough safeguards [for] innocent resource persons."

Faeldon in turn accused Lacson's son Pampi of being involved in cement smuggling.

Under the privileges provided by the 1987 Constitution, a senator or congressman is "privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session."

"No Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress or in any committee thereof," the Constitution states.

The Supreme Court justified parliamentary immunity in the case of Osmeña vs. Pendatun.

"It guarantees the legislator complete freedom of expression without fear of being made responsible in criminal or civil actions before the courts or any other forum outside of the Congressional hall," the decision read.

It added: "But it does not protect him from responsibility before the legislative body itself whenever his words and conduct are considered by the latter disorderly or unbecoming to a member thereof."

Faeldon said he did not harbor any ill feelings against the senators and he would not demand an apology from Lacson.

"If you are gentleman enough, you will know when to apologize and when not to apologize," he said.

Faeldon has since assumed a position as a deputy administrator at the Office of Civil Defense.

Related: Faeldon released from detention upon Gordon's order

CNN Philippines digital producer Amanda Lingao contributed to this story.