• Waive executive session secrecy, Senate asked

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    The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs must release, to the public, all information it obtained from two executive sessions it conducted in connection with the tragic Operation Plan (Oplan) Exodus.

    Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), on Thursday said the Senate, for the sake of transparency, should waive the secrecy on executive sessions and reveal to the public confidential matters taken up during such sessions.

    “The victims’ families want to know the truth on what really happened to their loved ones. The President cannot soften the hearts of the relatives with material things,” Jimenez added.

    In particular, he wants the committee, which is headed by Sen. Grace Poe, to release information about the extent of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s role in the Mamasapano (Maguindanao) operation as well as his actions on the day of the operation.

    Reports said the President was fully aware of what was happening to members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who were deployed in Mamasapano to carry out the mission to arrest suspected terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

    Aquino was inside the drone command center of the United States military located inside the base of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    The suspected US role in Oplan Exodus, according to a source, was likely among the matters discussed during the executive session.

    Rule XLVII, Section 128, of the Senate rules states, “The President as well as the senators and the officials and employees of the Senate shall absolutely refrain from divulging any of the confidential matters taken up by the Senate, and all proceedings which might have taken place in the Senate in connection with the said matters shall be likewise considered as strictly confidential until the Senate, by two-thirds (2/3) vote of all its members, decides to lift the ban of secrecy.”

    Any senator who violates the provisions may, by a two-thirds vote of all the senators, be expelled from the Senate, and dismissal if the violator is an official or employee of the Senate.

    Jimenez, however, said senators, as representatives of the people, must be transparent and allow the truth to come out.

    “The lawmakers owe the public the truth and since the executive branch has refused to tell the truth, the Senate must step forward,” he added.

    Poe, in an interview on Wednesday, said she sees nothing wrong in releasing details of the testimony of resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima during the executive session, but she will just leave the matter to members of the committee.

    She refused to divulge further details but she hinted that Purisima’s testimony will do the President good.

    Meanwhile, Poe said her committee will conduct another public hearing on the Mamasapano clash on February 23 (Monday) and it is expected that some of the matters tackled during the executive session will also be included in the hearing.

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