Leftist House bloc fails in bid to have Aquino answer questions
The resumption of the House inquiry into the Mamasapano debacle began at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in the packed Nograles Hall at the South Wing Annex of the Batasang Pambansa complex but it was not until two hours later when any real questioning began.
The Makabayan bloc led by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio first prodded the committees to act on their motion to invite President Benigno Aquino III to personally answer questions about his role and knowledge of “Oplan Exodus.”
This led to a back and forth between the party-list lawmakers and the President’s allies, who warned that compelling Mr. Aquino to appear at the hearing would set a dangerous precedent.
A ‘case of shaming’
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said this was only a case of “shaming the President.”
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. warned that forcing Mr. Aquino could have “far-reaching consequences” that could shake the foundations of democracy, namely, the separation of powers, and coequality among the three branches of government.
Colmenares offered a “half-way measure” of only sending the Makabayan bloc’s 20 questions for Mr. Aquino to answer in writing.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said: “Now is the chance we want to offer the President to answer our questions straight. We’re not requiring him. We want only to invite him.”
But Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said Congress could not force the President to answer questions. “If all of us ask him questions, he won’t be able to perform his job,” he said.
He cited Supreme Court jurisprudence that a President cannot be sued in any criminal, civil case, as “it will degrade the dignity of his office.”
Completely outnumbered, the Makabayan bloc’s motion was defeated when it was put to a vote.
The House probe is supposed to supplement the findings of the police’s board of inquiry and the Senate panel on Oplan Exodus.
The first one was held on Feb. 11 but further hearings had been initially suspended after the disruptive behavior of the panel members made them laughingstocks.
House leaders were eventually prevailed upon to continue the inquiry after a petition led by minority lawmakers gathered some 120 signatures from the 290-strong chamber to resume the probe.
The Mamasapano incident occurred after government forces clashed with fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after an uncoordinated operation to hunt down Malaysian terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Amin Baco alias “Jihad,” and their Filipino associate Basit Usman.
Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Justice for Islamic Movement also figured in the clashes with the police commandos.
The enormous toll on the government side sparked wide outrage and threatened to derail the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would flesh out the comprehensive peace agreement signed by government and the MILF last year.
The timetable for the BBL had been pushed back by the resumption of the House probe as lawmakers said they wanted the Mamasapano probe to happen ahead of the deliberations for the proposed law, to derive useful insights for the provisions on public order and security, and on the Bangsamoro police.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.