STAR NEWS FEATURE:  'BATASAN  5'  ACCEPT  DOJ  CHIEF'S  DARE

MANILA, MAY 12, 2006 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - The lawmakers known as the "Batasan Five" whom Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez accused of conspiring with renegade soldiers to oust President Arroyo have accepted his challenge to undergo psychiatric testing to prove their sanity.

"We are prepared to undergo any kind of brain test with him," Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño told reporters at a regular media forum in Quezon City yesterday.

"The public has the right to know who among us still has the right frame of mind," Casiño said.

Gonzalez blamed the media yesterday for continually pitting him against the "Batasan Five" — which is composedof Casiño and Representatives Liza Maza of Gabriela, Satur Ocampo and Joel Virador also of Bayan Muna and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.

Reacting to the Batasan Five’s agreement to undergo psychiatric testing, Gonzalez said in a telephone interview the lawmakers have no power to dictate on his actions.

"They cannot tell me what to do," he said. "Let them (Batasan Five) start it, then I will follow suit. That is not even something that I should pay attention (to). You (the media) are the only ones making an issue out of it," he said.

Earlier, Gonzalez said the Batasan Five have no reason to rejoice because their rebellion case has not been decided on its merits.

"We will definitely re-file the cases," he said. "There will be no double jeopardy because we are just in the preliminary stage of proving our charges against them."

Seemingly eager to prove their mental fitness, Casiño and Maza presented a psychiatrist, Reynaldo Lesaca, before the media yesterday.

"I hope he (Gonzalez) is serious about it," Lesaca said of the justice secretary’s challenge.

"It would be a very good venue to know if his thoughts, actions and reactions conform with reality," Lesaca added.

Making a spot diagnosis, Lesaca said there was a possibility that Gonzalez could be suffering from "urenic encephalopathy," a severe kidney problem that may reach a victim’s brain.

"The kidney ailment similar to the one that afflicts him is capable of damaging the brains of its victim," he said.

The kidney eliminates toxins in the body and once it malfunctions, these toxins could circulate through the blood and might affect one’s brain, he added.

Gonzalez issued the challenge following the remarks of detained Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran Monday that his kidney problems might have "infiltrated his brain."

Gonzalez denied that he pressured Makati City regional trial court Judge Jenny Lind Delorino to inhibit herself from handling the rebellion case against the Batasan Five, former senator Gregorio Honasan and the renegade Magdalo soldiers.

On May 4, Delorino denied the amended petition filed by prosecutors, which sought to lump together the pending rebellion case of Beltran with those faced by the Batasan Five and Honasan.

Delorino clarified the ruling was without prejudice to the re-filing of a separate complaint.

Asked to comment on the possible re-filing of the case, Batasan 5 lawyer Romeo Capulong said he sees no problem with it, but clarified they would only yield once a court issues a warrant for their arrest.

"We’re prepared for that," he said. "They can re-file the case. But they will come out only when there is a warrant for their arrest."

Capulong refused to comment on whether his clients would again seek protective custody from the House of Representatives.

Ocampo and his colleagues have sought refuge inside House premises to evade arrest on rebellion charges in connection with the alleged Feb. 24 foiled coup.

They have since denied charges that sought to connect them to a conspiracy with renegade military officers.

The Batasan Five invoked parliamentary immunity, insisting that they cannot be arrested while inside the Batasan complex, a privilege that applies only to offenses punishable by six years’ imprisonment and below, excluding rebellion.

Meanwhile, former senator Rene Saguisag said he plans to file contempt charges against Gonzales before the Makati courts today.

"It will be a separate case, not a motion," he said. "It’s for disrespect of the judiciary. He is disrespectful of (Judges Benjamin) Pozon and (Jenny) Delorino. Read between the lines. He accused one of being anti-government and the other of being fast (in her decisions)."

Saguisag said the justice secretary is not meant to be the attack dog of the administration.

"He issues bullish statements to the press, insulting the mother, insulting the victim, what kind of secretary of justice is that?" he said. — With Jose Rodel Clapano, Michael Punongbayan, Hazel Repancol


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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