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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Speaker open to resuming House probe

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SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. agreed to reopen the House hearings on the Mamasapano incident if the report of the police board of inquiry leaves vital questions unaswered.

Belmonte agreed to the reopening after 33 congressmen joined the House independent bloc, led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, in urging the House leadership to re-open the probe.

But Belmonte clarified that the hearings will only be reopened should there still be questiones unanswered by the BoI report.

“Once the BoI report is in and their vital questions unanswered, we should reopen [the House probe]. Multiplicity of investigations not desirable,” Belmonte said.

But Romualdez said that was precisely why they were asking for a resumption of the hearings.

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“We appeal for consideration that our proposal be given also a chance to be heard. There should be only one independent body that would investigate because too many probes may only blemish the truth behind the incident,” Romualdez said.

In the Senate, a panel headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III approved a proposal to create a truth commission and sent it to the plenary for debates.

But Belmonte and other leaders of the majority have been cool to a similar effort in the House.

“I don’t see any cogent reason to prolong the creation of a truth commission… if the administration is not hiding anything,” Romualdez said.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said to ignore proposals for a truth commission was to disregard the sacrifice of the 44 slain Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz added that it has been a month since the Mamasapano bloodbath, but there are still many unanswered questions.

“Instead of the truth, what we’re getting is an increasing number of conflicting versions of the incident by various personalities from both the government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front),” De la Cruz added.

Earlier, Romualdez, Atienza, De la Cruz, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, Surigao del Sur Rep. Philip Pichay, Quezon Rep. Aleta Suarez, former President-turned Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo filed House Resolution 1879 to constitute a truth commission to look into the clash between members of the SAF and Muslim rebels in Mamasapano.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House have also filed a bill to create a fact-finding commission.

Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus of Gabriela; Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers party-list; Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis and Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list noted that the Philippine Constitution Association had earlier urged Congress to pass a law creating such fact-finding body with plenary powers to investigate the incident which saw the death of 44 police commandos.

“The multilayered and simultaneous probes being conducted by the House of Representatives, the Senate, the PNP Board of Inquiry, the MILF, the Armed Force of the Philippines, the Department of Justice are necessary and timely,” Colmenares said.

“Therefore, an independent and impartial Commission that will ferret out all facts and consider all angles and seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is necessary,” he added.

Under the bill, the commission will be composed of a chairman and two commissioners, to be appointed by the President, who will act as an independent collegial body.

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