With Ali G. Macabalang
The Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs, and national defense and security conducted an inquiry last Wednesday into the killing of four Army intelligence soldiers by police elements in Jolo, Sulu on June 29, 2020.
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa presided over the hearing, which was sought in a resolution authored by Senator Riza Hontiveros, and attended by top brasses of both the PNP and AFP alongside NBI officials and two witnesses.
The police claimed it was a shootout, but the military said its four men were unarmed and searching for suspected suicide bombers. All nine policemen in the incident have since been accused of murder by the NBI.
The incident has sparked controversy as to what could have been the motive behind the killing, raising questions also about the rapport between the two uniformed services.
I have watched a portion of the recorded proceeding of the hearing, during which Sen. Hontiveros pointed out her concern being a widow of a police officer and her sympathy for the death of the victims and justice for their families.
As usual, the hearing was meant to unearth the truth behind the incident and for the Senate to possibly come up with legislation that can prevent a repeat of the incident and improve existing laws and rules on military-police rapport.
Will the Senate be able to achieve the goal of the hearing? This is a question the public will have to see in the future.
Remember that the Senate had also conducted last March an on-the-spot hearing about the situation in the war-torn Marawi City.
Prior to their committee hearing in Iligan City, Senators Dela Rosa, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, and Migs Zubiri, among others, had conducted ocular inspection of the MAA of the flattened city.
Senators Go and Marcos, according to their words to the media after the hearing, had acknowledged government “shortcomings” in the snail-paced rehabilitation of the city.
Obviously, the field hearing was meant for aid in legislation that can improve the rehabilitation efforts in the city and for the recovery of its residents, many of them still displaced in different parts of the country.
The House of Representatives had also conducted earlier committee hearings on the state of Marawi.
But both the chambers of Congress have yet to report out what efforts in aid of legislation they had made to make the difference in the state of Marawi and the plight of the IDPs.
Wednesday’s Senate hearing, once successful or fruitful, would lead to giving justice to the four soldiers and their bereaved families, on one hand, and improve rapport between the military and establishments, on the other.
But Congress, notably the Senate, ought to bear in mind that a multitude of people – the several thousands of IDPs from Marawi City – also need justice. And the IDPs have been waiting for justice more than three years now.
Least Congress be accused of lopsided preference in justice-based legislation, lawmakers should come up with something that will ease and shorten the agony of Marawi IDPs.
Better still, the Senate should summon to another hearing the people composing the Task Force Bangon Marawi to shed light on the real status of their group’s duty to restore normal life in the country’s lone Islamic city. ALI G. MACABALANG