Travesty and parody of the oversight



First Read
A friend wrote me to say that watching the House and Senate inquiries this week, she could not tell which was the travesty and which was the parody of the oversight function of Congress.

I told her that never in my lifetime had I seen so many crooks assembled in Congress in one sitting; but you “can never can tell,” to use one movie personality’s sublime quotable quote, since this is Congress we are talking about.

British philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill considered the oversight function as the most important responsibility of a legislature. Specifically, Congress exercises such oversight by keeping watch over the executive in the administration and execution of the laws.

And it conducts, when the circumstances warrant, a legislative inquiry to hold the executive to account.

Watching the hearings unfold (I shuttled between the two inquiries), I was hard put to find any sterling show of responsibility by either chamber. Nor could I see any sensible reason why the hearings were being broadcast live by the TV networks.

Mock-heroic solemnity

From the subject of the inquiry, to the selection of witnesses, to the line of questioning, the hearings were inexcusably foolish and a waste of public money.

The House justice committee lined up some eight convicts and assorted police officials as witnesses. And no less than Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre turned up to question and squeeze some juice from the hardboiled resource persons.

At the Senate, it was amusing to watch Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano strain longwindedly to destroy the story of Edgar Matobato, only to find the hitman ramrod firm and more credible than him.

Sen. Dick Gordon looked funny as he tried to invest the proceedings with solemnity, reminding everyone about the rules, and saying repeatedly, “we are all lawyers here.” I saw Sen. Manny Pacquiao smile at this.

It was hilarious to see Gordon threaten to punish Matobato with contempt, when the man was already confessing to having killed 50 people or more in his affidavits. Did his knees quake perhaps at the prospect of a contempt citation?

From continuous watchfulness to legislative review

In his Political Dictionary, William Safire writes that the “oversight function” is relatively new even to the US Congress. It was formally authorized by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which provided: “To assist the Congress in appraising the administration of the laws and developing such amendments or related legislation, as it may deem necessary, each standing committee for the Senate and the House shall exercise continuous watchfulness of the execution by the administrative agencies concerned of any laws.”

Oversight was at first neglected by the US Congress, but by the 1970s, with the CIA revelations of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it became a banner for congressional vigilance on accountability of the executive.

In the US Congress, members take the oversight responsibility seriously. One senator said, “Congress’ duty does not end in passing this law. We have to make sure the law works.” Another senator declared: “I have always felt that one-third of the role of Congress should be in oversight.”

No mandate to investigate

Here in the Philippines, our Constitution provides, in Article VI, section 21, for the optional exercise of the oversight function. The section reads:

“The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure.”

There is no explicit mandate for Congress to make government accountable to the people. It is only implicit in Congress’ right to make laws, appropriate money, give consent to nominations, and officials.

During the time of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd, he encouraged the pork-barrel investigations as a tool for crippling the political opposition. He also approved of the crucifixion of former vice president Jejomar Binay by a Senate subcommittee

Another corpse in the drug war

Under President Duterte, congressional oversight is just another corpse in the war on drugs.

If there’s one issue for which the government should be held to account, it is indisputably the drug war and the drug killings. But the 17th Congress does not even want to look.

Sen. Leila de Lima made investigation of the drug war the top priority of her Senate justice committee. She was booted out of the committee chairmanship after she brought an alleged hitman to testify on the Davao death squads.

In the House, De Lima became the principal subject of its justice committee hearing. They were more interested in her alleged drug dealings than in digging for facts in the drug war.

The travesty is so brazen, the House has even decided to ban the term “extrajudicial killings” from its inquiries.
Oversight in the dictionary is also defined as “failure to notice something.”


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  1. mr makabenta paano na po yan bagsak na po kredibilidad ni matobato, nag husga na po kayo sa column na ito,paano na po yun pag insulto ninyo ke sen cayetano, oversight lang po ba sa inyo yon? paano po ba yan? oversight di pa naman tapos yun hearing,me husga ka na agad,yun talim ng ballpen nyo sobra ang talim,baka na oversight mo rin yan

  2. DU30 days are numbered.

    To AFP and Police, please do not follow DU30 instruction to kill people. Some of you may still be in the service at AFP and Police when DU30 term expires. Take note, once you are involved in DU30 killing spree, the law of the land will hunt you. There will no DU30 who will fight for you. DU30 is giving you false promises including paying those people who killed drug addicts and criminalsHow can he pay you guys unless you are part of DDS system and in the payroll of DDS . He will deny you as soon as he leaves the office.Marked my word, he will twist and turn. Do you think he will bother to defend you? C’mon guys you know this thing.wont work.
    Mag-isip po kayo mga generals, you should defend the citizen from this type of killer.

  3. Now, mga buing, take a look at what you are saying. EJR means a certain person is killed by an agent of the law not conformably with the rules. Now, if a person is killed by a policeman to silence him be cause of said police man’s complicity in illegal drug that is no longer EJR. Because the policeman was no longer acting in consonance with the very mandate of the authority but to avoid being exposed. Said policeman can no longer be considered as agent of the law.

  4. Most educated Filipinos are aware that true justice has not prevailed in the Philippines for at least the last 4 decades. What are you all talking about justice here? At least during this present administration we can see some justice socially and politically even though this justice does not apply to illegal drug criminals.

  5. Wow. If you honestly think the witness is credible with his inconsistent statements and report it as such, stop being a journalist.

    “Its hilarious” seeing a news post as retarded as this one.

  6. It’s my impression that the objective of the Senate’s inquiry is to investigate the alleged extra judicial killings / human rights violations of the Mr. Duterte (as a Mayor then & now as President). On the other hand, the House’s objective is to inquire into the proliferation of illegal drugs in the NBP. Instead, the Senate and the House are making a parody & travesty of the inquiry – destroying & assassinating the character & credibility of the latter by the alter egos of Mr. Duterte. This inquiry is disturbing & alarming sending a chilling effect to all would-be critics that Mr. Duterte does not want to be criticized.

  7. Mr Makabenta you are fair and square and a reasonable person. If you are crying for justice then it is high time you in the media should take the lead in challenging the Justice Secretary Aguirre and start a legal proceedings against De Lima. The accussations gathered so far are so heinous that Congress and Senate should be challenge to Change the Law and consider De Lima’s crime a capital punishement. This would I am sure be fair to Mrs De Lima and finished once and for all whether Mrs De Lima is the Drug Queen. We are all for Rule of Law and Justice. Let us not spend anymore time wasting our effort on this investigation

  8. Today i find myself agreeing with you. Ive noticed that duerte attacks anyone & everyone who in the slightest way questions him. He is alienating himself & possibly the filipino people by being so rude to other leaders. The Philippines may one day live to regret this. Now i will say i personally dont care how many drug addicts or dealers or manufacturers are killed. I think they are the scum of the earth, but even with killing them you should have certain peramiters & there just doesnt seem to be any.

  9. you actually think matobato is credible and ramrod as a witness. wow. i would still have bee reading your column until you wrote this. bye

    • Good riddance. Persons who have one track mind and would believe only those who don’t question the administration deserve the kind of murders we have in our midst.

  10. Is the Constitution of the Republic Philippines a real thing or just a piece of paper?


    Bill of Rights

    SECTION 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

    • generally people who did not know what/who is Davao at the time of mayor duterte would love and defend duterte…simple as that…