SC: Trillanes can’t invoke parliamentary immunity on media rants against Antonio Tiu
The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV cannot invoke parliamentary immunity to protect himself from being sued by businessman Antonio Tiu, whom the former accused of being a dummy of Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
In a recent 22-page decision, the SC 2nd Division stressed Trillanes’s media interviews in 2014 were not covered by the parliamentary “speech or debate privilege,” as settled already in the Jimenez ruling in 1966.
This rejected Trillanes’s claim of a “clear threat” to his parliamentary immunity when he bypassed the Court of Appeals (CA) and headed straight to the SC to appeal the May 19, 2015 order of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 101 that denied his motion to dismiss Tiu’s complaint for damages.
The SC stressed the Constitution’s protection of lawmakers’ privilege of speech and debate “did not turn our Senators and Congressmen into ‘super-citizens,’ whose spoken words or actions are rendered absolutely impervious to prosecution or civil action.”
It said parliamentary immunity was “not a cloak of unqualified immunity” and its purpose was “not to protect them against prosecutions for their benefit, but to enable them, as people’s representatives, to perform the functions of their office.”
Tiu’s complaint for damages arose from Trillanes’s accusations that he served as a front for Binay to conceal his alleged ownership of a 150-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas. At the time, Binay, whose plans to seek the presidency was already known to the public, faced a long-running investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee over allegations of corruption, procurement irregularities and hidden wealth.