A shark that turned into a “dilis”?
|"PHOTO OP? Senate President Franklin Drilon with wife Mila (in yellow) and couple Jaime and Janet ([both] in red) Napoles." Caption and image source: Rappler|
During the impeachment trial against (then) Chief Justice Renato Corona, like a great white shark, Senator Franklin Drilon went for the kill. Even when he was asked to inhibit as a senator-judge due to his apparent bias against Corona, he still attacked with killer calculations. He even forced a witness to cough out a key evidence on behalf of the seemingly inept prosecution. Thus, at that time, he earned the “porksecutor” label.
However, the shark seemed to have turned into a dilis (anchovy).
Now, as the Senate President, Drilon apparently blocked the attempt of the ever-powerful Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to subpoena Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind or, at the very least, a co-conspirator in the PDAF scam. He refused to sign the subpoena for Napoles on the grounds that the Ombudsman advised him that doing so could prejudice the plunder case filed against her. He explained, “[M]y attention was called about the rule of the Ombudsman against the public disclosure of cases. … Out of prudence and respect, we must defer to the Ombudsman as she has acquired primary jurisdiction of the case.” (Source: Rappler)
|"Senate President Franklin Drilon will not sign the subpoena issued by Sen [TG] Guingona for Janet Napoles, deferring to the advice of the Ombudsman." Caption and image source: Rappler|
I am aware that it appears almost nothing has come out of those senate investigations supposedly “in aid of legislation.” I also personally witnessed how the senators have subjected its “resource people” to humiliation. I admit that there were times I felt the investigations were “in aid of reelection.” To me, scamming us of our taxes and wasting time and resources by conducting “public inquisitions” is just one and the same.
But, I believe having Senate investigations is one thing while blocking it is another. As far as I remember, no senator has ever done what Drilon did. Senator Chiz Escudero lamented, “In the history of the Senate, a case pending even before the Sandiganbayan never stopped us from summoning a witness, what more if it is just before the Ombudsman.” (Ibid) Plus, it was up to the Makati Regional Trial Court to decide whether to allow Napoles to testify and not the Ombudsman, since it was the former and not the latter that issued the arrest warrant against her.
Usually, during questioning, whenever a witness would bring up the sub judice defense (or preemptive discussion of the merits of a pending case in court), our dear senators would be dogmatic about separation of powers. That the judiciary cannot stop the legislative body for they are indeed co-equal branches of government. They would even detain uncooperative “witnesses.”
Why did he do that? Why only now?
Was Drilon merely protecting the Senate as an institution that is now under fire for the PDAF scam? Or was he just protecting himself or somebody else? Drilon has set a precedent and only time will tell whether it was good or bad. For argument’s sake, let us say that he was right all along. That the Senate should not touch pending court cases. But is he saying that previous Senate hearings have violated the sub judice rule? That the conduct of the senators in said hearings was actually wrong? That they subjected their witnesses to undue pressures?
In my humble opinion as a non-lawyer, Napoles or her lawyers should have been the ones to seek the advice of the Ombudsman, not Drilon. To me, the fact that Drilon did it on his own initiative smacks of a cover-up. During the hearing, Napoles can just invoke her “right against self-incrimination” or whatever rights a suspect has. The senators could coax or coerce her. But she can always counter it with a “no comment, your Honor.” Senator Escudero said, “I read the letter of the Ombudsman. It is not for her to determine what is in aid of legislation and what is not. It is also not in her place to say what Napoles can say or cannot say because that is up to Napoles and her lawyer if she will invoke her right to remain silent.” (Ibid)
|Senate President Drilon with Senator TG Guingona. Image source: Senate of the Philippines website|
That’s why Senator TG Guingona decried what Drilon did. “If the Senate President refuses to defend the power of the Senate, I must continue to defend it myself. The Senate cannot surrender its powers without a clear legal justification.” (Ibid)
My take? Senate President Drilon owes us an explanation: “Why? Why only now?”