VIP prisoners: Every which way but jail

VIP prisoners: Every which way but jail

As they await their fate, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. have kept netizens abuzz on whether they would opt for detention in a hospital suite or in a house in a military camp.

Given the trend to grant hospital or house arrest to high-profile detainees, Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is opening an inquiry to decide once and for all whether to make this a policy or scrap it altogether.

Hospital and house arrests are "informal arrangements" because the law provides regular jail for everyone, but they are "alternative mechanisms" that should be looked into, he said.

Such forms of detention have become "rampant" in recent years, but the question of their legality is another matter, said Pimentel, a lawyer.

What's the legal basis

"What's the legal basis for this practice? Do we want this practice to continue? If the answer is yes, then let's make sure it's legal. If the answer is no, then let's make it clearly unlawful. Either way, we might need a law," he said in an interview.

If it's unlawful, the committee on justice and human rights will issue a pronouncement that it's unlawful and "must be stopped," the senator said.

"If we want this to persist, let's have a law authorizing this," he added.

Apart from detention in a hospital or in a camp, some people are also held in the national police headquarters in Camp Crame, or in the National Bureau of Investigation, he observed.

Safety pretext

The senators' corespondent in the pork barrel scam, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, has been held in a police training camp in Laguna province purportedly for her own safety since her arrest last year in a separate illegal detention case.

This has raised hackles because she clammed up at the Senate inquiry into the scam, and set off calls for her to be thrown in a regular jail.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is detained in the state-run Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City while on trial for plunder and electoral sabotage charges.

Estrada's own father, deposed President Joseph Estrada, was placed under house arrest in his rest house in the mountains of Tanay, Rizal province, while being tried for plunder.

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