PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd may not be forced to attend but he will not bar any official of his Cabinet from appearing before any congressional probe on the year-old Mamasapano massacre, according to Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
In a news briefing on Tuesday, Coloma said the President has expressed his sentiments and said his piece on the incident many times last year after the January 25, 2015 incident where 44 elite police commandos died in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province during an anti-terrorism operation that was widely perceived to be illegal.
“There have been a number of investigations conducted and completed on the matter by the PNP [Philippine National Police] Board of Inquiry, House of Representatives, Senate and the Commission on Human Rights and also the DOJ [Department of Justice] and NBI [National Bureau of Investigation]. The Office of the Ombudsman also conducted its own probe. The President has repeatedly discussed this issue in many of his public appearances last year,” the Palace official noted.
Coloma was dousing a statement by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile that they will zero in on the participation of Aquino in Oplan Exodus when the congressional probe reopens on January 25.
The official explained that there are constitutional parameters that should be followed regarding an invitation by Congress for the President to appear in any of its investigations, especially since the executive and legislative are co-equal branches.
“We would like to remind everyone that the President and the government have made several pronouncements regarding the issue and have been open and transparent and never covered up any information,” Coloma said.
“What we are saying is that there are formal processes mandated by law… the President has initiated a response to any question or clarification,” he added.
Coloma noted that Section 22, Article 6, on the Legislative department of the 1987 Constitution, states, “The heads of departments may upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, or as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance. Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the state or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session.”
The Palace official maintained that should the members of the legislature deem it right to invite top government officials, including the President, the invitation should be in accordance with the dictates of the law.
“If they have prepared questions, the executive is ready to answer them even before the resumption of the Senate hearing on January 25,” Coloma said.
He stated that any individual or group is free to file appropriate charges against anyone if evidence warrants.
“We just hope that the time of our lawmakers and government officials would be spent justly instead of wasting it [in]politics,” according to Coloma.
He noted that leaderships of the Senate and the House have the right to pitch whatever questions they would like to be answered.