SENATOR Franklin Drilon said Monday that Solicitor General Jose Calida cannot stop the Senate from investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings in the ongoing aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.

Calida earned the ire of Drilon after he said that his office "will advise the PNP (Philippine National Police) not to attend" Senate inquiries if he does not find them to be in aid of legislation.

"Huwag kayong matakot mga pulis at other operatives. Marami na po tayong batas. There is no need for another investigation in aid of legislation kuno," Calida said in a press conference held at Camp Crame on Monday.

Calida's remark was in response to Senator Leila de Lima's plan to file a resolution seeking to probe the series of killings of drug suspects.

De Lima, a former chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said her proposed inquiry would seek to come up with legislation addressing operating procedure of law enforcement agencies such as the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcent Agency.

She warned that PNP members who refuse to face the Senate inquiry face possible contempt.

Drilon said that while the move of the executive department deserves commendation, the Senate cannot sit idly on allegations of extrajudicial killings that saw a spike in the recent months.

"We will assert our Constitutional duty to investigate illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient acts committed by any public official in order to strengthen our existing laws on this matter, and to further aid the campaign of the President against illegal drugs," Drilon said.

Drilon stressed that the Senate is mandated by the Constitution to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.

He said that the Senate is authorized to conduct investigation of “malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in office by officers and employees of the government, its branches, agencies, subdivisions and instrumentalities.”

“We will not hesitate to invoke the power of the Senate to compel the attendance of witnesses and resource persons if such attendance is necessary for the Senate to perform its constitutionally mandated function,” Drilon said.

He underscored that the Supreme Court, in the case of Senate vs Executive Secretary, upheld this power when it ruled against Executive Order 464 in 2006, deciding that attendance of witnesses and resource persons “is compulsory in inquiries in aid of legislation.”

The Senate chief said that Calida's remarks "undermine the independence of the Senate and our very own democracy."

"I am alarmed by the remarks made by Calida. His remarks were uncalled for and reek of arrogance, unbecoming of a solicitor general," Drilon said. “What is he afraid of?” he added.

Drilon said that the Solicitor General “should not interfere nor impede any legislative inquiry of the Senate.”

"As a lawyer, he should be aware that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the power of the Senate to conduct investigations as constitutional and legitimate," Drilon said.

Drilon also said that Calida’s action is not only an affront to the power of the Senate, but also compromises the effort of the President to foster transparency and accountability under his presidency.

(Video by Ruth Abbey Gita/Sunnex)

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo came to the defense of Calida, saying the Senate does not need to investigate the spate of killings of suspected drug lords as it would only “discredit the legitimacy of police operations against the drug menace.”

While he acknowledged that Congress is tasked to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation, Panelo said, it has “no basis” for the Senate to do such.

“While it’s the duty of a member of Congress to initiate investigation in aid of legislation, with respect to the Senate investigation involving killings of drug pushers, it appears – as I can see it – there is no basis other than speculation and conjecture," Panelo said in a chance interview.

Panelo noted that as a manner of protocol or procedure, “the police agency conducts immediately an investigation when a civilian is killed in the process of arrest.”

“I don’t hear any investigation coming from the Human Rights Commission so any attempt therefore to conduct a Senate investigation by any member, especially of that particular senator who wants to conduct the investigation, may be viewed as attempt to discredit the legitimacy of police operations by them against the drug menace,” Panelo said.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said that de Lima's proposal can be useful in curbing criminality.

He expressed optimism that Congress and the Executive Department will join hands in fighting criminality with due process.

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan said they will participate in the investigation.

Pangilinan, who has been a strong supporter on the protection of children, said he wants to make sure that children will be afforded the right treatment by the authorities. (Sunnex)