WHAT is he afraid of?”
That is the question posed by outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Leila de Lima to Solicitor General Jose Calida regarding his position that there was no basis for a Senate inquiry into alleged killings in police operations implementing President Duterte’s directive to crack down on illegal drugs.
“While we laud and support the campaign against illegal drugs of the Philippine National Police, the Senate cannot sit idly on allegations of extrajudicial killings that saw a spike in recent months,” Drilon said.
The outgoing Senate President said senators would “assert our constitutional duty to investigate illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient acts.”
Drilon said Calida’s remarks “undermine the independence of the Senate and our very own democracy.”
A defiant De Lima called a news conference to declare: “I will not be intimidated. I will push for my proposal to conduct a Senate inquiry unless my colleagues overrule me.”
De Lima did not take lightly Calida’s threat that he would file a case against her for the proliferation of illegal drugs when she was justice secretary under the Aquino administration.
“So that’s my fault?” she said. She recalled that she investigated convicted drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who were still plying their drug trade in 2014. She also denied there was a shabu laboratory inside the NBP.
Senators were split on the proposed inquiry. Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara is supporting it, but incoming Majority Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was “premature.”
“It appears at least for the moment, it’s merely based on conjecture and suspicions and without sufficient basis,” Lacson said in a text message to reporters.
Incoming Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said it was “too early to dismiss” the holding of the Senate inquiry. “It depends on how De Lima would justify the investigation ‘in aid of legislation,’” he said in a text message.
Sen. Richard Gordon said the PNP should investigate the killings “to assure the rights of the citizenry is respected.”
In a statement, Drilon said he was “alarmed” by Calida’s remarks that were “uncalled for and reek of arrogance, unbecoming of a solicitor general.”
“What is he afraid of?” Drilon said, adding that Calida “should not interfere nor impede any legislative inquiry of the Senate.”
He said the Senate was mandated by the Constitution to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.
“We will not hesitate to invoke the power of the Senate to compel the attendance of witnesses and resource persons if such attendance is necessary,” Drilon said.
He called Calida’s remarks “an affront to the power of the Senate” as well as “compromises the effort of the President to foster transparency and accountability under his presidency.”