House won’t send questions to Aquino on Mamasapano

EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE. President Aquino does not have to answer to any probe, says a lawmaker. File photo by Rappler

EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE. President Aquino does not have to answer to any probe, says a lawmaker.

File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – It's final: the House of Representatives would not ask President Benigno Aquino III to answer questions on the Mamasapano tragedy. 

On the resumption of the House hearing on Mamasapano Tuesday, April 7, lawmakers spent close to an hour arguing about whether or not the committee should send questions to President Benigno Aquino III on his involvement over the bungled police operation and request for his response. 

The Makabayan bloc earlier filed a letter addressed to House public order and safety chairperson Jeffrey Ferrer and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr seeking to invite Aquino to the hearing. 

The letter listed down 20 questions for Aquino in relation to the clash that killed 67 Filipinos. House leaders have, however, repeatedly said that the President would not be invited to the hearing due to his executive privilege. 

Answering the inquiry of ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio on the status of their request, House committee on peace, unity and reconciliation chairperson Jim Hataman-Salliman said the committee had already voted against inviting Aquino during the first hearing in February. 

Besides, the House may not require the President to appear or even answer questions due to the separation of powers between co-equal branches of the government, said Cavite Representative Elpido Barzaga. 

But Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Colmenares raised their objections. They said they only want to give Aquino the opportunity to answer questions since he himself has said the police Board of Inquiry (BOI) failed to get his side before producing their report. 

Embarass the President?

As a compromise, Colmenares said the committee can just send the questions to Aquino and request "if possible" for his response. 

"The President has mentioned he wants to answer. He blamed the BOI for not inviting him. Now, this Congress is bound to ask him those questions," Colmenares said. 

At least 3 lawmakers raised their objections, including Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice. 

"They just want to embarrass the President. Imagine if 200 congressmen send their questions," Erice said. 

Citing Aquino's executive privilege, Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, meanwhile, said the House may only ask the President to answer questions in an impeachment trial. 

"Kung mananagot po si Pangulo sa lahat ng tanong ng mamayan, hindi na po siya makakapagtrabaho," Fariñas said. (If the President answers all the citizens' questions, he can not work anymore.)

In the end, both the House committee on public order and safety, and the committee on peace, unity and reconciliation voted to junk the motion. The two committees are holding a joint probe on the incident until April 8.

The House had suspended its investigation into Mamasapano after holding only one hearing. The House leadership agreed to resume the probe following a clamor from about 100 lawmakers. –