An election lawyer has expressed disappointment with having “been witnesses to about a hundred inquiries in aid of legislation but we still have to hear from our legislators of a particular law enacted or existing laws amended on the basis of such investigations.”
Romulo Macalintal, though, conceded in a statement that “[i]nquiries in aid of legislation” conducted by our lawmakers form part of their constitutional powers.
Necessarily, “resource persons are invited to get their inputs on how a proposed law could be crafted or an existing law could be amended,” he said.
But, Macalintal asked, “[I]f these resource persons are either cajoled, intimidated, shouted at, embarrassed or practically threatened with imprisonment, what relevant inputs could be derived from them in the investigations?
He cited an article by the then-Supreme Court Associate Isagani Cruz on November 11, 1995, where Cruz decried a Senate investigation, saying, “I thought some of the senators were grandstanding and that some of the witnesses were unfairly treated, also for public consumption.”
Cruz noted how legislators could “conjure all kinds of excuses to hold legislative investigations where they can project their profiles on television while competing for the limelight with the witnesses.”
While the article was written in 1995, Macalintal said, it is practically the same situation we have at present where such congressional inquiries are conducted without specific laws passed out of such investigations.
Like the “lamentation” of Justice Cruz, he added, what we only see “is a reprise of the old-time zarzuela, with a few glamorous actresses, some discomfited victims and plenty of swaggering villains in the cast.”
“Perhaps there is a need to, in the meantime, stop all these investigations in aid of legislation. If our lawmakers want to know the loopholes or problems in an existing law, they or their staff could attend court trials to observe cases in court where an existing law intended to be amended is at issue,” the election lawyer said.
On the basis of the arguments and examination of witnesses conducted by the lawyers in these cases as well as the commentaries of the judges or justices, the lawmakers could properly assess what specific changes should be made on existing laws or the need to enact new ones, he added.
“Inside the courts, these legislators would hear both sides, not only those they want to hear in a biased and politically motivated investigation in Congress,” Macalintal said.