Senate Sergeant-at-Arms: Pharmally’s Dargani siblings ‘in hiding’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) — The Senate security failed to arrest Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executives Mohit and Twinkle Dargani who are allegedly “in hiding,” Senate Sergeant-at-Arms retired Maj. Gen. Rene Samonte said on Wednesday.

Senate security personnel went to the three condominium units owned by the siblings in Taguig and San Juan, but they were nowhere to be found.

“Hindi sila naaresto or sumuko so far. As of last night, wala sa tatlong condo na mga address nila....Mukhang in hiding na sila, kaya patuloy naming hahanapin sa mga susunod na araw,” Samonte said in a text message to CNN Philippines.

[Translation: They did not surrender nor they were arrested. As of last night, they were not in their condominium units registered as their address...It appears that they are in hiding. So we will continue to hunt them down in the next days.]

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Tuesday cited the Dargani siblings for contempt after they refused to submit documents subpoenaed by lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Pharmally director Linconn Ong has been detained in the Senate for over a month for allegedly making false statements during hearings. His lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, claimed that the upper chamber has no legal authority to arrest Ong and the Dargani siblings outside Senate.

“Any attempt by the Sergeant at Arms to arrest Mr. Dargani may subject them to criminal liability, including serious illegal detention which is non-bailable,” Topacio said in an online briefing.

“Any senator ordering him to arrest Mr. Dargani, and if he is arrested may be liable for the same offense because Mr. Dargani is outside of the jurisdiction of the Senate,” he added.

But Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Senator Richard Gordon said Topacio’s statement is absurd.

“Example: A person had been sent a subpoena to either appear in person or to produce documents necessary for an investigation, in aid of legislation... All that person will need to do is just not enter Senate premises so he/she won’t be held accountable for his/her recalcitrance,” Gordon said in a text message to CNN Philippines.

“This will lead to a really stupid situation where a co-equal branch is rendered inutile because it’s supposed jurisdiction is restricted to where it’s building is situated,” he added.

Senate President Tito Sotto, on the other hand, noted that the Senate security personnel can take the Dargani siblings into custody as long as “they are within the jurisdiction of the Philippines.”

The Senate is preparing its comment to Ong’s petition urging the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional his contempt order, as well as the upper chamber’s power to punish a witness for testifying falsely.

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report