MANILA—Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday slammed fellow senators for conducting Senate hearing on violent dispersal of protest rally in Kidapawan without prior notification, describing the inquiry as “in aid of election.”
”Very obvious in aid of election,” Enrile said in the Kapihan se Senado forum.
According to the Senate rules governing inquiries in aid of legislation, Enrile said members of the committee should be notified three days before the public hearing.
In the Kidapawan incident hearing which was held in Davao City, Enrile said he, as minority leader and official member of all the committees, received the notification only Wednesday afternoon.
”They go out the way to do it outside. There must be an official notification to the members. They take others for granted as if they own the Senate,” Enrile said.
The Senate committee on justice chaired by Senator Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III conducted the Senate inquiry and attended by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Teofisto ‘TG’ Guingona III.
Pimentel is the president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipin-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Bayan) which adopted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as its presidential candidate for the May 9 elections.
On the other hand, Cayetano is running for vice president while Guingona is seeking reelection.
Guingona is also the chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee which has been conducting weekly investigation on the USD81 million stolen deposit of the Bangladesh Bank at the New York Federal Reserve.
”I don’t know what is the purpose, what is the legislation they want to enact. Are they going to teach the President on what to do in case of emergency like that?” Enrile said.
At least three people were reportedly killed while dozens others were injured when the local police tried to disperse the farmers begging for food from government aid amid El Niño-induced drought that has crippled most farms across the country.
Enrile said the protest rally could have not ended in violent dispersal had President Benigno Aquino III immediately went to the area and ordered the release of sacks of rice that the farmers have been asking from the government.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero called for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel probe into the violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City last week to ensure an impartial and independent investigation.
“The NBI should be given a free hand in the investigation in order to avoid suspicions of a possible whitewash,” said Escudero, the leading vice-presidential candidate.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has started its own inquiry into the violent dispersal carried out by the local police to break a barricade set up by farmers.
A number of anti-riot police were also reportedly injured, including two in critical condition due to head trauma. The PNP also claimed it has proof the demonstrators started the violence.
“The PNP probing an incident involving its men will have no credibility whatsoever. I believe that it is imperative that the NBI assume control of the investigation immediately,” he said.
Escudero also said the protest would not have turned bloody if the police observed maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters and if the government took steps to help the El Niño-stricken farmers.