Beltran goes to Congress for sessions

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — AFTER more than 15 months in police custody on rebellion charges, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran returned to the House of Representatives yesterday, claiming the day as his “privilege day.”

Beltran immediately delivered a speech urging Congress to pass his bill granting workers a P125 across-the-board wage increase, and assailed the government for failing to push a genuine pro-poor agenda.

“It’s so nice to be back,” a rejuvenated Beltran, 74, said. “It’s time to go back to work for the people.”

Earlier, a Makati judge had allowed Beltran to attend the closing sessions of the 13th Congress, saying there was no danger that he would escape.

Beltran, detained at the Philippine Heart Center because of hypertension and other ailments, would be allowed to leave the hospital temporarily, said Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court, citing deficiencies in the complaints filed, ordered the Makati court to dismiss the rebellion charges against Beltran and other leftist lawmakers known as the Batasan 5, but the government may still appeal the decision.

In his petition to the Makati court, Beltran said Speaker Jose de Venecia had invited him to attend the last sessions of the 13th Congress from June 4 to 6 and the centennial celebration of the Philippine assembly at the House of Representatives on June 7.

Beltran’s colleagues dubbed the day “Ka Bel privilege day” to welcome him back.

“Many of our colleagues and committee staff have long missed Ka Bel,” said Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, one of the Batasan 5, referring to Beltran by his nickname. “We expect them to applaud his return and to listen to his important remarks at the plenary.”

Beltran’s chief of staff, Ina Silverio, said Beltran’s family was suing the justice department for wrongful detention.

Beltran’s family will also ask the government to pay his hospital bill at the Heart Center, which has reached almost P700,000, during his 15-month stay there.

Beltran’s daughter, Ofelia Balleta, said the government had imposed his confinement at the Heart Center and should pay the bill of P688,700.

Beltran’s daughter had gone to the police headquarters at Camp Crame to have his temporary release order signed.

In Malacañang, presidential chief legal counsel Sergio Apostol said Beltran and the Batasan 5 had no grounds to sue the government, and because no law made it accountable for pursuing rebellion charges against any person.

“There is no law allowing the government to be sued if the complainant or plaintiff is facing a rebellion case because the government is just doing its function against the threat of rebellion,” Apostol said.