Immunity from arrest  means legislatures are privileged from arrest while Congress is “in session” with respect to offenses punishable ...

Immunity from arrest means legislatures are privileged from arrest while Congress is “in session” with respect to offenses punishable by up to 6 years of imprisonment. 

The purpose of parliamentary immunities is not for the benefit of the officials; rather, it is to protect and support the rights of the people by ensuring that their representatives are doing their jobs according to the dictates of their conscience. It is indispensable no matter how powerful the offended party is.  

Thus, congressman who committed an offense punishable for not more than 6 years, but is not attending session, cannot be arrested so long as he is an incumbent congressman, and so long as Congress is in session, whether or not he is attending it, he shall be immune from arrest. (People of the Philippines v. Jalosjos, G.R. Nos. 132875‐76, February 3, 2000).   

Moreover, a senator‐lawyer cannot be disbarred or disciplined by the Supreme Court for statements made during a privilege speech. The senator‐lawyer’s privilege speech is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Court. The Court, however, would be remiss in its duty if it let the Senator’s offensive and disrespectful language that definitely tended to denigrate the institution pass by. It is imperative on the Court’s part to re‐instill in Senator/Atty. Santiago her duty to respect courts of justice, especially this Tribunal, and remind her anew that parliamentary non‐accountability thus granted to members of Congress is not to protect them against prosecutions for their own benefit, but to enable them, as the people’s representatives, to perform the functions of their office without fear of being made responsible before the courts or other forums outside the congressional hall. It is intended to protect members of congress against government pressure and intimidation aimed at influencing the decision‐making prerogatives of Congress and its members. (Pobre v. Sen. Defensor‐Santiago, A.C. No. 7399, Aug. 25, 2009) 

Congress is not considered in session during a recess. During a recess, a congressman who has committed an offense punishable by not more than 6 years imprisonment may be arrested. 

The Constitution provides only a privilege from arrest in order to ensure the attendance of Congressmen. It does not provide immunity from searches

Legislative privilege provides that no member shall be questioned or held liable in any forum other than his/her respective Congressional body for any debate or speech in Congress or in any committee thereof. (Sec. 11, Article VI; Pobre v. Sen. Santiago, A.C. No, 7399, August 25, 2009
          However, legislative privilege is subject to the following limitations
1. Protection is only against forum other than Congress itself. Thus, for defamatory remarks, which are otherwise privileged, a member may be sanctioned by either the Senate or the House as the case may be. 
2. The “speech or debate” must be made in performance of their duties as members of Congress. 

In Paredes, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, where Sandiganbayan order the preventive suspension of a Member of the HoR being prosecuted criminally for the violation of the Anti‐Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Court held that the accused cannot validly argue that only his peers in the House of Representatives can suspend him because the court‐ordered suspension is a preventive measure that is different and distinct from the suspension ordered by his peers for disorderly behavior which is a penalty. (Paredes, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, GR 118354, August 8, 1995) 

To avail the Privilege of Speech and Debate, the following requirements must be observed:
1. That the remarks must be made while the legislature or the legislative committee is functioning, that is in session 
2. That they must be made in connection with the discharge of official duties. 

To invoke the privilege of speech, the matter must be oral and must be proven to be indeed privileged. 

Speech or debate includes a vote or passage of a resolution, all the utterances made by Congressmen in the performance of their functions such as speeches delivered, statements made, or votes casts in the halls of Congress. It also includes bills introduced in Congress (whether or not it is in session) and all the other utterances (made outside or inside the premises of Congress) provided they are made in accordance with a legislative function. (Jimenez, v. Cabangbang, G.R. No. L‐15905, August 3, 1966) 

Publication does not at all times fall under the scope of speech. The same shall be made while Congress is in session and not during its recess. However, if publication is made when Congress is not in session, it is not privileged because Congressman is said to be not acting as congressman. (Jimenez, v. Cabangbang, G.R. No. L‐15905, August 3, 1966) 

It must be noted that the purpose of the privilege is to insure the effective discharge of functions of Congress. The privilege may be abused but it is said that such is not so damaging or detrimental as compared to the denial or withdrawal of such privilege. photo source:
DISCLAIMER: The author is not lawyer nor an authority on this topic. It is a product of humble research and study of law. The information provided is not a legal advice and it should not be used  as a substitute for a competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer.

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