By Ellson Quismorio
Sick of being treated as “second-class” lawmakers, the House justice committee moved on Tuesday to issue show-cause orders to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Bantag after no-showing a key hearing of the panel.
Committee chairman, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III, said Gamboa and Bantag are given five days to respond to the show-cause order, or else they would be cited in contempt by the body.
“This is a show-cause order asking them to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for their failure to attend an important committee meeting,” said Veloso, who is a retired Court of Appeals (CA) justice.
“Show-cause lang naman ito. Short of that, lalaruin ka lang eh (This is just a show-cause order. Short of that, they won’t take it seriously),” he opined, adding that the move was the “collective motion of all the members of the committee.”
The Justice panel hearing Tuesday tackled House Bill (HB) Nos. 4461 and 4683, which bat for the establishment of a separate facility for prisoners convicted of heinous crimes. The measures were filed by Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, respectively.
Also discussed in the hearing was Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez’s HB 4312, which seeks to provide free legal assistance to any officer or enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP if case he or she is charged in court.
Deputy Speaker Henry Oaminal, who sponsored HB 4312 on behalf of Hernandez, was particularly irked with the PNP leadership’s decision to send two police captains to the hearing.
“While I have high regards even to junior officers in the PNP who are very active, I think in this kind of subject matter, the PNP chief, if he is not available, [then] he should send somebody in the territory [of his rank],” he said.
“On matters like this, we should be accorded the courtesy of sending a representative who is at par with the members of Congress who are giving their time in order to help, promote, and protect the interest of our law enforcers.”
He noted that the police captains may not even have the authority to report directly to Gamboa and convey the chamber’s displeasure, since there are several ranking officers separating them.
The AFP, on the other hand, sent Maj. Gen. Adriano Perez to the proceedings.
“I have to cite a glaring comparison,” Veloso said just before ordering the committee secretary to draft the show-cause orders.
“[Earlier], Atty. [Charles] Cambaliza of DOJ (Department of Justice) manifested before this committee that in relation to House Bills (HB) No.4461 and 4683, nag-submit ng comment ang DOJ sa Senado. Dito, wala (The DOJ submitted its comment to the Senate. Here, they didn’t).
“We are being treated as second-class legislators. You know why? My point is this: Sila, totoong nagpapakulong ng testigo (they really detain witnesses). That doesn’t happen sa House na ito. Siguro (Maybe), it’s time,” Veloso said.
Oaminal said the presence of the invited resource persons is a way for the House to gauge their interest in the bills they are pushing for and investing time in.
Regarding the wording of the show-cause order, Oaminal said: “My words were supposed to be lighter, but I yield to the wisdom of the chair.”
The Philippine legislative system is bicameral, meaning there is a Lower (House) and an Upper (Senate) Chamber. A proposed law must pass through both in order to get enacted.
While the House has a much larger membership compared to the Senate (300 against 24), the latter has been traditionally viewed as “higher” in the hierarchy of the legislature, whether deservedly or not. They are officially co-equal branches, however.