Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, September 25, 2006


Senator Richard J. Gordon
Privilaged Speech
25 September 2006

Mr. President, good afternoon. Last, Friday, I saw an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer where the Philippine National Police issued a statement that they policemen can no longer make any arrests in behalf of the Senate without first clearing it with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group or the local PNP units concerned.

I stand before you today on a matter of personal and collective privilege to express my deep outrage for this arrogance of the police force towards a co-equal branch of government who is being told by the PNP that "you cannot give our people any orders anymore unless you clear it with us."

Section 6 of Article XVI, the General Provisions of the Philippine Constitution clearly states that:

"The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission. The authority of local executives over the police units in their jurisdiction shall be provided by law."

Given that we have a single, national police force, the PNP is responsible for enforcing any and all lawful Warrants of Arrest issued by a judicial tribunal and Arrest Orders issued by legislative tribunals, for these have the same weight as co-equal branches of government.

In fact, it is the duty of any officer, having knowledge that such Warrants of Arrest or Arrest Order are issued for particular persons to look for this people and arrest them. In the case of the Arrest Orders issued by the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises for PCGG Commissioners, they failed to do so. It was the Sgt.-at-Arms of the Senate who made the rest and the police officers were only there to assist and backstop them in case of trouble. And what did these officers get for performing their duty, they were called to PNP Headquarters to explain themselves.

When the Marines were in charge of securing the Senate, they went as far as Cotabato to enforce Arrest Orders issued by the Senate, while our current PNP cannot even enforce arrests to be made here in Manila.

We have a breakdown in peace and order in this country. Mr. President. Our judges and journalists, government officials, private citizens and militants are all getting assassinated and their cases remain unresolved.

This representation has delivered several privilege speeches calling for justice for judges and journalists who have been assassinated, which cases remain unsolved to this day. I have spoken in behalf of private citizens, respected members of the community, who have come to me to seek justice for the violation of their homes and the wanton murder of their kin in their very own homes, which also remain unresolved to this day.

In the meantime, they shoot at each other and sell drugs from their own evidence room, but they remain at their posts.

Jueteng continues to proliferate. Celebrated cases like those of Nida Blanca remain unresolved. They cannot find the killer of one their own, Police Chief Inspector Manolo Martinez who was killed last October 14, 2004, and was a subject of a privilege speech by Senator Lim.

And this National Police Force is the same police force that would like the Senate to come to them and say "Your majesty, will you please arrest these people."

If the duly elected Senate has to say please to our PNP, what chance does an ordinary citizen have to expect that those wrong them will be arrested?

Mr. President, I demand to see a report of the batting average of the PNP is arresting people for whom warrants of arrest have been issued.

I ask, Mr. President, why is it that the policemen who assisted in enforcing the law have been relieved from duty, while those who have failed to arrest those responsible for the deaths of dozens of journalists, judges, police and military officers, civic leaders, and crimes against the ordinary powerless citizen of this Republic, remain?

The Senate is currently drafting the Anti-terrorism Bill. We are at risk here. The officers under the Special Action Force SAF have special training which the current detachment assigned as their replacement does not have, which is tantamount to attempt to reduce the security of the Senate.

Murders, kidnappings, robberies and rapes happen in broad daylight. In the face of these crimes, where are our police officers? Are they being called to account? Where are the arrests, Mr. President, where are the suspects? Or are our police officers they following the chain of command in precisely allowing crimes to go unpunished, to create this sense of fear and chaos among our people, to allow the cabal of a few to assume the mantle of martial rule?

While the police officers assigned to investigate and solve these cases remain at their posts, those who have been tasked to guard the premises of this Senate have been changed. What is the rationale behind this act? Was it because the officers of the Special Action Force could not be trusted by those in power to do their duty to the chain of command, rather than their duty to the Constitution and the people?

And here we must tread carefully, Mr. President. For is it not the case that every dictator has sought to control the legislature by force by placing it under guard, and arresting those most vocal in opposition against him?

Did not Ceasar violate the law by marching the 13 th legion across the Rubicon, then allowing legions under Marc Antony to take control of the Senate in Rome ? Did not Napoleon march his troops into the Etats Generale to seize control and have himself named consul? Did not Hitler's storm troopers stand guard within the halls of the Reichstag to guarantee Hitler's consolidation of executive and legislative powers?

We need not be experts on world history to know this, for we have seen this all happen in our own country, almost exactly 32 years ago, as then President Marcos closed both Houses of Congress as he imposed martial rule.

As we see a pattern of actions that seek to undermine this good Senate, it is about time that we asked what truly is the purpose of the Senate?

The purpose of the Senate is to speak out, to represent and to act, not just for a district, a province or a town, but for the entire country. As its members – we the Senators of this Republic – are elected by the entire country, some of our members in fact having a larger mandate than the President herself.

The purpose of the Senate is to provide a national perspective to legislation, to ensure that bills are scrutinized to ensure that they truly are what the entire country, and not just what a town, a province or a district, needs. The contribution of a legislature to the country is determined, not by the number of bills, but by their quality in how they can improve the lives of our people.

The purpose of the Senate, as representatives of the entire people of this Republic, is to scrutinize whether the executive uses its power and public funds to advance the rights of the people and protect their welfare. Is it not pointless indeed to pass laws if the executive fails precisely in its fundamental duty to uphold the Constitution and execute the laws of the land?

These duties are fundamental to our offices, Mr. President. These duties are fundamental to the institution to which we belong. These duties are essential to the maintenance of liberties of our people. And yet there are those of a treacherous cabal that question the purpose of our existence as an institution, and thus seek to eradicate one of the few remaining bulwarks of democracy in this country.

I am without any doubt that there exists a consistent and persistent attempt to bludgeon our people into submission. I am without any doubt that a plot exists to undermine our liberties by gnawing away at the pillars of our democracy. At every attempt at which we have used the powers vested in us to demand accountability from others in power, they have consistently sought to frustrate our duties. They have refused the right of the nation through their nationally elected representatives to demand an explanation for their abuses. Instead, they have frustrated the sovereign will of the people gathered in this our august chamber.

They have frustrated our inquiries into election fraud. They have frustrated our inquiries into violations of the rights of our people through unauthorized wiretapping. They have frustrated our inquiries into whether billions of the people's money have been judiciously spent on the promoting the welfare of our people, instead of keeping the few in power and lining their pockets, in the use of fertilizers, the north rail project, the search for the Marcos wealth.

They have frustrated our attempts to check whether the law is properly implemented by issuing the unconstitutional Executive Order No. 464 and, when the Supreme Court struck down the same, re-issued the same dressed in different clothes, as Memorandum Circular No. 108. They declared an unconstitutional "state of emergency" which served only as a tool to prevent some of our people from gathering freely and speaking out their minds despite the unequivocal guarantee of freedom of speech and assembly in our Constitution. They have sought to change our Constitution by unconstitutional means, by gathering signatures under an illegal initiative, and by claiming that the vote of one house of Congress under a bicameral system can go it alone.

All this, Mr. President, in the span of merely two years – all these acts that trample upon the Constitution, that violate the system of checks and balances, that flout the liberties of our people.

It is when the legislature is silenced that the people are denied their voice in government. It is when the legislature is silenced that the executive can become drunk on power, and run amuck and trample upon the rights of the people. It is when the legislature is controlled by the executive that the Republic dies, Mr. President.

There are those who stand guard outside these halls, Mr. President, who would claim loyalty to the chain of command. I hope and believe that, in their hearts, the welfare of the Filipino people expressed in the Constitution, in the system of a republican democracy – of the separation of powers to ensure and the primacy of the will of the people – comes first.

Mr. President, we must be vigilant. We must do as the Constitution demands of us, in protecting the liberties of our people, in ensuring their welfare, by enforcing a system of checks and balances, to ensure that our democracy descends not into tyranny.

Vigilance, not only amongst us, but among our people as well, so that our nation be not plunged into darkness once again.

Thank you and good afternoon.


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