Both chambers of Congress have yet to start kicking the ball but already Senate President Franklin Drilon and neophyte lawmaker Senator Leila de Lima are stirring the hornet’s nest in the hope of getting public sympathy for their common cause to investigate the spate of murders related to the Duterte administration’s campaign against drugs.
For lack of a better and more appropriate description, legislators call this clamor to probe the ongoing police-linked slays an “inquiry in aid of legislation.”
Of course there’s nothing spurious about invoking a congressional power to seek the truth. What raises one’s eyebrows is that the call comes at a time when both houses of Congress have yet to sit down and review their respective rules, granting there are some revisions to make.
As it is now, Section 21 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution states that “The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.”
But the irony that comes with inquiries is that the probes, even if considered legal, do not end productively. The congressional journals on human rights investigations always fall short, and if there are productive initiatives done, they instead end up in cases filed in courts.
If probes, inquiries, or public hearings are designed to result in good legislations, this objective has not been met satisfactorily. Even in the preparation of the final report of an investigation, senators and congressmen are often divided on what recommendations would be adopted.
For senators Frank Drilon and Leila De Lima to place the President and the Philippine National Police on the spot after only two weeks of stay in power is not a welcome manifestation. No wonder President Rodrigo Duterte has always raised an issue against the former justice secretary, a supposed ‘fiscalizer,’ because she was not able to fix the knotty drug issues that hounded the New Bilibid Prison during her watch. Why raise hell when the drug dealers, big or small, who have made the Philippine society miserable are given special treatment? If indeed, there are human rights violations, that function, first and foremost, falls on the lap of the Commission on Human Rights.
And why ask for an inquiry when the President himself, during his inaugural, and the PNP chief have been vocal in saying that following the rule of law cannot be compromised, that vigilante and extrajudicial killings must not be tolerated?
If Senator Leila De Lima is doubtful about the sincerity of the President and his lieutenants in ensuring that laws must be upheld, why raise the hackles so early when the national leadership has yet to do the things he has promised to the people during his campaign?
And for Senator Drilon, who agreed to support the Duterte presidency as soon as it started its term, why the heck has he been suddenly become a limp boar heading to the sea to drown?
Probes in aid of legislation should be taken seriously by those who invoke it. If the purpose of an inquiry is to come up with better laws, such intent — ask the public — has not been given weight. In fact, most public hearings have been turned into an event where guests, who are assured of respect, are treated like adult delinquents.
After names are sullied in probes and reputations damaged, what remedy does Congress have in repairing what has been destroyed? Nothing.