House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas asked traffic enforcers on September 18 to excuse lawmakers from arrest for minor traffic violations, given the importance of their role in legislative processes.
Fariñas cited parliamentary immunity during a hearing by the House transportation committee. He said it states that no member of Congress may be held liable for any violation punishable by not more than six years in prison while Congress is in session.
“Bakit? Kasi kami ay representatives ng Filipino people. Nai-impeach si Presidente, magbobotahan kami sa committee whether he will be impeached or not,” Fariñas said.
“E bibitinin nila ako, titiketan mo, hindi ako makakaboto o hindi kami makakaboto,” he added.
He asked the Department of Transportation and the Inter-Agency Committee on Traffic’s officials during the hearing to tell their enforcers not to arrest lawmakers on their way to attend a session at the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
“Strikto po ako ngayon, kapag 4 p.m., kandado ‘yung pinto, magro-roll call po kami. E sa traffic po ngayon, lalong kinakailangan ang probisyon na ito,” he said. “Kaya nga po maski maka-omit ng offense, tsaka na hulihin.”
He further explained that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may surrender the erring lawmaker to the authorities once the session is done.
“Kapag napakita na talagang congressman siya, ‘wag niyong dalhin sa presinto. Kasi kapag dinala niyo sa presinto, hindi na siya makakapag-perform. Ito ay nasa Saligang Batas ‘yan,” Fariñas said.
“Kung murder talagang mabigat yun, imbestigahan na. Pero kung mga minor offenses, lalo na sa traffic, kung nagpakilala naman at kami’y nakikiusap sa inyo, escortan niyo na. Kung sasabihin niya na importante yung hinahabol niya sa Kongreso, makikita niyo naman yun, asikasuhin niyo na para matutugunan namin ang aming trabaho,” Fariñas added.
However, other lawmakers disagreed with Fariñas’ stance on the issue.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said as lawmakers, they should be model citizens.
“Dapat ay ay maging huwaran ang mga mambabatas para tuparin ang mga ito,” Zarate said in a statement. “Mga simpleng empleyado, kawani o maging mga mambabatas o matataas na opisyal ay lahat apektado talaga sa malalang traffic.”
“Lalo nitong patitingkarin na may ibang batas para sa may kapangyarihan at sa karaniwang tao,” Zarate further said on the issue.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that Fariñas’ statement was uncalled for.
“It sends the wrong message that there is no speed limit for representatives during session days,” Lagman said in a statement.
He also noted how lawmakers usually have their drivers or security aides drive for them, which meant parliamentary immunity won’t apply to them.
“To my knowledge, no representative has been detained or arrested for a traffic violation and no incumbent has asked for any immunity from arrest or detention for a traffic infraction,” Lagman said.
Asked on how they would handle it if Fariñas will push through with asking for “parliamentary immunity” for lawmakers involved in minor traffic violations, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said that it would support the lawmakers’ wish. However, they would still wait for Fariñas’ official request and present it to the Metro Manila Council (MMC) for approval.
MMDA later released a statement, saying that “the agency cannot be selective in implementing traffic laws because this will definitely create double standard.”
“MMDA cannot exempt anyone from the law. It has no power to do so. Fariñas did not ask an exemption from the law but a courtesy of deferment with the guarantee of Congress that any minor traffic violation will be resolved after the congressional session,” the statement read.
“Exemptions from traffic procedure have been and continue to be granted, to various sectors like doctors, PWDs, diplomats from other countries, etc. These are not exemptions from law but procedure because MMDA has no authority to exempt anyone from the law,” it added.
MMDA statement on Rep. Fariñas’ request to excuse lawmakers going to sessions from traffic violations | via @jacquemanabat pic.twitter.com/E7LXedxPVM
— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) September 19, 2017
Social media users hit Fariñas for claiming parliamentary immunity.
#privilege No, Cong.Fariñas, ambulances and firefighters lang ang hinde dapat inoobstruct sa traffic https://t.co/FMyw8XS2Q7
— jamiecrux (@jamiecrux_13) September 18, 2017
Me after hearing Fariñas wants immunity for lawmakes from minor traffic violations: pic.twitter.com/ncgSfqeRpD
— Joseph (@iamsuperjopet) September 18, 2017
‘Great power comes with law immunity?’
Spiderman: Great power comes with great responsibility.
Farinas: Great power comes with law immunity?
— Lorraine Mantac (@lkmantac) September 18, 2017
Du30 asking for utang na loob, Fariñas asking for immunity, 1k budget bec they don’t like the chairman: definition of “Naghahari-harian” 😒😒😒
— Pensieve (@_pensieve_) September 18, 2017
Sources: ( gmanetwork.com , philstar.com , .inquirer.net , interaksyon.com )