HAVING seen and covered so many Senate investigations that went fishing for wrongdoers and government abuse, and caught nothing significant, we in the Manila Times want to express our skepticism about the conduct of a Senate inquiry on the kidnap-ransom operations of Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives that resulted in the kidnapping-murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo.
Before undertaking the inquiry, we believe the Senate should make clear that its purpose is not to coopt for itself the investigative function of our law enforcement agencies. It should say that its purpose is principally to assist its work of legislation, because there is in fact a legislative proposal that needs such assistance.
In filing his resolution for the inquiry, Senator Panfilo Lacson blurred this distinction of function.
He said there is a need for a legislative probe into the operations of rogue police officers who use the war on drugs as a cover for extortion activities. And he also said that the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs, which he chairs, will investigate the alleged kidnap-extortion racket with “the end in view of expediting the seeming slow and soft actions” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the issue.
“Expediting” suggests that the Senate could do the investigation better than the PNP. This is questionable.
Sen. Franklin Drilon has expressed a view that is contrary to what Senator Lacson says in his resolution. Drilon said in an interview with ANC: “We shouldn’t be constantly engaged in investigations of this nature, only where the investigation is in aid of legislation should we be engaged in an investigation. Drilon chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.
There is no question that the kidnapping of the Korean as a result of the drug war is deplorable and should be investigated and prosecuted bythe Department of Justice and the criminal courts.
But for the Senate to take over, or get involved in the investigation is misguided. It will only confuse roles, and cause an unfortunate tug of war for media attention.
The instances where the Senate inquiry has been misused for partisan purposes and for grandstanding in the media are altogether too many, that it would be miscreant of us not to say that this proposed inquiry is unnecessary and wasteful ofthe Senate’s time and money.
We want to see the specific legislative proposal that will be advanced by this inquiry, if there is one.
This is not to say that we presume the DOJ and the PNP will do a good job of investigating the Jee murder. There are lots of reasons for us to doubt the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal justice system.
This is to say that we have a system of criminal justice, and we have specific agencies for the work of investigating and prosecuting crimes and law violators.
Congress should either respect the system and allow its institutions to do their work, or it should correct the system by legislative reform.
At the moment, the Senate is not thinking reform, but thinking investigation. This is the wrong course of action.