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Fariñas wants debate on Congress police bill

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas dared critics of his proposal to create a Congress police force to join a debate over the issue at the House of Representatives. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File

MANILA, Philippines — House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas dared critics of his proposal to create a Congress police force to join a debate over the issue at the House of Representatives. 

“A bill is debated in the committees and ultimately in plenary not through media,” the Ilocos Norte congressman said when sought for reaction to opposition lawmakers’ objection to his House Bill 6208 (Philippine Legislative Police). 

“You may, of course, cover and report such,” he said, referring to House reporters. 

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, titular head of opposition lawmakers called the “Magnificent 7,” opposed the establishment of a Congress police that Fariñas claimed to have been patterned after the 2,200-strong Capitol police in the US. 

“That would be institutionalizing a police contingent at the expense of the government for legislators. That will not sit well with our constituents, with the public as a whole,” the veteran lawmaker said in a statement. 

This sends a wrong signal to Filipinos about privileged lawmakers seeking more privileges, Lagman said as he noted that congressmen are already entitled to request two police security officials from the PNP for safety concerns. 

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His colleague Rep. Tom Villarin of party-list Akbayan noticed that there seemed to be a growing impunity of privileges and entitlement being sought by congressmen – notably from President Duterte’s allies in Congress – with Fariñas’ proposal.

“The Duterte administration, it seems, is promoting impunity all over the place. This kind of impunity, in the end, will be rejected by our people, especially now that privileges and entitlements are just being brazenly bandied about by top officials,” he said.

Villarin noted the recent request to grant congressmen immunity from traffic violations and the redaction of the statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth of some Cabinet officials. 

Under the Fariñas proposal, the Congress police force will be separate, independent and distinct from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) or any other law enforcement agency for that matter. 

He lamented the two chambers’ dependence on the government law enforcement agencies like the PNP and the NBI in performing its legislative functions of compelling resource persons to attend inquiries. 

Lawmakers had to rely on the PNP to produce Ronnie Dayan, the driver-bodyguard of Sen. Leila de Lima – now detained on drug trafficking charges – who went into hiding shortly after their alleged drug connections were exposed. 

“The system of checks and balances fundamentally requires the independence of the branches of government and only through such independence that the ends of government are better achieved,” Fariñas, on his third and last term, justified.

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