Lacson says Duterte can’t dictate Senate duty

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Two senators have taken a stand against the warning of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte on possible Senate investigations on his anti-crime and illegal drugs campaign.

Senator-elect Panfilo Lacson said that Congress, particularly the Senate, is not like a number of provincial, city or municipal councils that could be easily influenced by the sitting mayor or governor.

“We’ll conduct investigations in aid of legislation whenever necessary and nobody, not even the president of the republic, can dictate and stop us from doing our job,” Lacson said.

He added that “the president should not and cannot stand in the way of our mandated duty. We’ll exercise our subpoena powers, not to mention the power to cite for contempt any person who defies our authority under the Constitution.”

In a recent speech, Duterte warned Congress against investigating him on his anti-crime and illegal drugs campaigns because this will lead to a fight between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Duterte’s statements about going after criminals, particularly drug pushers and syndicates, has raised concerns that this could encourage vigilantism since he went to the extent of offering a bounty for such criminals.

In the past month, various reports about suspected criminals ending up dead on the streets have started emerging, though it is unclear if these were being done in response to the challenge issued by Duterte.

Senator-elect Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary, said that the statement issued by Duterte against Congress “makes it appear as though the concept of checks and balances is lost to him.”

“With that statement, if true and correct (i.e., he was not misquoted), what we expect now from his administration is intolerance to any form or measure of checks to possible abuses of the incoming administration. These pronouncements are designed to send a chilling effect to Congress,” De Lima said.

She is confident that lawmakers will continue to fulfill their mandate as the people’s last guarantee against a possible tyranny of the executive branch “despite these threats of suppressing senators and congressmen who dare investigate government abuses.”

De Lima clarified though that she is also a strong advocate against crime and corruption and that she “does not think any of us who will be sitting in the Senate and the House will unnecessarily hamper law enforcement just for the sake of conducting investigations.”

“But when this so-called all-out war against crime is conducted without regard to the rule of law and human rights, then I think it would be an abdication of our mandate if we keep our eyes closed to abuses in the name of fighting criminality. We were not elected by the people just to be a rubber stamp Congress,” De Lima added.    – With Christina Mendez


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