“This is a simple asking for answers to a list of questions.” – Bayan Muna Rep.Neri Colmenares
By DEE AYROSO
Calling it “a very dangerous precedent” and “a humiliation” of the highest leader of the land, the investigating body of the House of Representatives today overwhelmingly denied the motion to send the list of 20 questions to President Aquino about his role and extent of knowledge of the tragic Mamasapano clash.
Voting 14 against three, the joint investigating body of the House committees on peace, reconciliation and unity and of the public order and safety, denied the motion by Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares to send the list of 20 questions to the President, leaving it up to him whether or not to respond.
Makabayan bloc lawmakers Colmenares, Gabriela Women’s Partylist Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus were the three who voted to send Aquino the questions.
Aquino allies were quick to argue in his defense, interrupting ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio as he quoted the President’s words that his side was not heard. After one-and-a-half hour into the session, the body eventually voted overwhelmingly to deny the motion.
In reaction, Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon criticized the Presidential allies for “clearly doing the dirty work of saving the president’s neck in today’s hearing.”
Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr insisted that there is separation of power among the three co-equal branches of government, the executive, legislative and judiciary. He said that compelling the president to answer “will create far-reaching consequences which will affect the very foundations of our democracy.”
“It creates a dangerous precedent, it becomes a precedent that future presidents will also be compelled,” he said.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice was even more protective of Aquino, saying: “This is just a humiliation of the President.”
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas insisted on the President’s immunity from suit, saying that the President can only answer questioning by Congress in an impeachment hearing. Fariñas even quoted a Supreme Court decision which denied a writ of amparo against the President because it “will degrade the office of the President.”
In answer to Fariñas, Colmenares said the Supreme Court decision does not apply because they were not filing any civil or criminal charge against Aquino.
“This is a simple asking for answers to a list of questions,” said Colmenares.
“The point here is that the House leadership has not even tried to invite the president, when it is very clear that his testimony is vital to ferret out the truth on the matter,” Ridon said.
“How can the president’s presence in a formal congressional investigation endanger the pillars of democracy? Isn’t the separation of powers there for each branch to provide checks and balances in the functions of the other branches?
“Rep. Barzaga and the administration stalwarts are just clearly doing the dirty work of saving the president’s neck in today’s hearing. Clearly, they don’t want the process of exacting the truth to proceed with ease. If we want to ferret out new details today, we need to launch a staunch table battle,” Ridon said.
The youth solon also criticized Aquino for not voluntarily appearing at the congressional probe or sending a response in written form. “For him, he’s above everyone, even Congress,” Ridon said in a statement.
Protesters calling for Aquino’s appearance at the investigation picketed at the south gate of Congress.
Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap slammed the barbed wires installed at the gate, apparently to deter protesters.
GWP Rep.De Jesus said Congress would be doing “a grave injustice” to the population and to those who died in Mamasapano if it allows Aquino to evade important questions.
“Who let the US troops in and why? Why did the President allow their participation? There is
also a need to clarify if the plan took into consideration how the operation would impact the civilians and the community,” said De Jesus.
“Covering up for the President is like rubbing salt over the wounds of widows and civilians who fell victims to the Mamasapano operation. Let the House of Representatives not be part of a grand cover-up to shield the President from accountability,” said GWP Rep. Ilagan.