Something surreal happened while we were waiting for President Duterte to metamorphose into a butterfly. It was Congress instead that experienced drastic change.
While ostensibly probing for facts and accountability in the administration‘s war on drugs, the two houses of the legislature mutated into the three monkeys in ancient Asian tradition.
The three monkeys tale is what scholars call a pictorial maxim of the principle: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” It was popularized by a 17th-century carving over a door of the famous Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan.
The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.
The shrine at Nikko is a Shinto shrine, and the monkey is an extremely important being in the Shinto religion.
Just as there is disagreement about the origin of the phrase, there are differing explanations of the meaning of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”
• In Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the maxim are about not dwelling on evil thoughts.
• In the Western world, both the proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety.
• It may also signify a code of silence in gangs, or organized crime.
In a life that rejected earthly possessions, Mahatma Gandhi allowed one notable exception: a small statue of the three monkeys.
Congress flunks oversight function
How did Congress earn this possibly slanderous characterization?, which, I am certain, will draw protests from my limited number of friends and acquaintances in Congress.
First, after a big fuss about conducting inquiries on the controversial drug war, the Senate and House committees authorized to conduct hearings have hastily folded up camp, and signified that the hearings are over. The committees will forthwith write their respective committee report on what the hearings accomplished or failed to accomplish.
Second, after heralding its inquiry as a no-holds-barred inquiry into alleged extra judicial killings (EJKS), the Senate committee on justice and human rights declared that there were no extra-judicial killings or human rights violations, and exonerated President Duterte and his administration.
Third, After devoting its inquiry to establishing Sen. Leila de Lima’s involvement in the proliferation of the illegal drug trade inside new Bilibid prisons, and hearing detailed testimony from high-profile convicts who testified to having given drug money to her or her representatives, the House justice committee decided not to file formal charges against the lady senator.
Fourth, after taking a sidetrip to probe alleged summary killings perpetrated by an alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) during president Duterte‘s stint as Davao city mayor, the Senate justice committee declared that it found no evidence of the existence of a death squad.
After hearing and cross- examining ad nauseaum Edgar Matobato’s testimony that he was a member of the DDS, the Senate committee is recommending the filing of perjury and murder charges against Matobato.
Some opposition figures and citizens have charged a whitwash and a cover-up, because of the sweeping verdict that there are no EJKs and the clean bill of health handed to the president. Social media has been especially rife with criticisms of the work of Senator Gordon as Senate chief prober.
While I am still awaiting the committee reports, and relying solely on the announced committee decisions, my chief complaint and criticism at this point is that the two inquiries did not resolutely probe to establish facts about the drug war. It has left many questions unasked and hanging. It was in too much of a hurry to please the President.
1. When Mr. Duterte says over and over that there are 3.7 to 4 million drug addicts in the country, who should even be killed, where is his corroborating statistical proof for this? The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), as well as UN monitoring of our drug situation, maintain that there were at most 1.7 to 1.8 million drug users in the country as of last year.
2. When the president says that the drug war will only be finished when the last drug dealer or pusher is eliminated, who is he banking on to do the killing? The police and military? The vigilantes?
3. If an order to kill is issued by the President, will the PNP or AFP obey the chief executive and commander-in-chief ? Does the President have the authority to issue such an order?
These questions, in addition to the oft- asked question about summary killings, clamor for answers.
They need a serious and urgent answer within the context of a formal inquiry, because unless plans miscarry, the UN probers will be in Manila soon to conduct their formal investigation. The country and the government will be able to avoid the odium of being a human rights abuser, if government moves expeditiously to answer these questions.
Reopen probe of summary killings
Some senators, notably Sen. Panfilo Lacson, has expressed keen interest in the reopening of the Senate inquiry in order to put to rest questions that many citizens are asking.
Says Lacson: “I need somebody or something that will corroborate or buttress what [Edgar] Matobato has testified to. The witnesses of the CHR [Commission on Human Rights], I still want to hear them out.” Lacson is the chairman of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs.
Lacson holds out the possibility that another witness and physical evidence could support the allegations of Matobato.
Lacson said he did not see any proof during the recent hearings that would link the President to EJKs.
Lacson also believes that the investigation of summary killings was incomplete without the testimonies of the witnesses of the human rights commission.
In objecting to the termination of the hearing, Senator De Lima also averred that there had been no thorough evaluation of the written submissions and documents by the committee, especially those from the PNP, including the official policy papers on Operation Tokhang, spot reports of the so-called firefights between the police and the suspects that ended up in the death of the suspects, and the SOCO reports.
Moreover, she said, the President and PNP Chief Director General Ronald del Rosa had not been made to account for their pronouncements on the violence of the campaign against drugs.
Three monkeys presiding
Both the Senate and the House hearings may be faulted for the tendency to sensationalize the proceedings, and the superficiality and partisanship of the questioning. Both the administration and the opposition pushed their own agendas in the hearings, resulting in the confusion of the issues and the neglect of the facts.
The public is not wiser or better informed from having watched or listened to the hearings. Our heads were filled to overflowing with tales of mass killings in Davao and huge amounts of money changing hands in Bilibid.
Senator De Lima’s prominence in both hearings was an unfortunate distraction.
And her repeated efforts to gain public sympathy and support were futile.
Duterte prevailed in this test with her, with the three monkeys presiding.