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Jailors

Many politicians mainly use congressional hearings to get free media mileage, especially during election seasons.

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Senator Ping Lacson this week reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that he cannot order the arrest of anyone as only the courts are empowered by law to issue such orders. Lacson made the statement over the President’s threat to arrest senators in the event they cite Cabinet members in contempt for non-appearance in congressional hearings.

Or, as in the case of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals executive Linconn Ong, if the senators feel that those being queried in their hearings, purportedly in aid of legislation, are being “evasive” or are not being truthful in their testimonies.

“The President is a lawyer. He should know his law,” Lacson, a non-lawyer, said. “We all know that the President will not and cannot order the arrest and send to jail anyone, senator or not.”

Who can argue with Lacson’s point? However, stripped of legal acrobatics, the general rule cited by the senator now running for president should not only apply to Mr. Duterte, but to the Senate, as well.

The situation is akin to a member of the Legislative branch of government calling out the Executive department for overstepping into the Judiciary’s enclave, while Congress has been guilty of doing the exact same thing.

Lawmakers have been jailing people for decades for contempt, with the effect that they arrogate unto themselves a power which, Lacson admitted, exclusively belonged to the Judiciary.

The lawmakers — many of whom are not lawyers — should know, too, that they cannot have their internal rules supplanting the laws of the land, especially when the liberties of people under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights are being trampled upon by their actions.

The President cannot jail people and the senators can? Both cannot and should not.

If the senators and congressmen feel that someone is lying under oath, then they should file charges for perjury, so that the alleged perjurer may be provided every opportunity before a court to prove he or she was telling the truth.

Getting elected into office can really get into people’s head, with lawmakers ascribing to themselves godly powers to ascertain facts from falsities.

Two decades back, as a primary resource person in a Senate hearing over a story I broke, I was amused at the good-cop, bad-cop tactic employed by a now long-departed senator to ferret out the genesis of the source material that served as the basis of my story.

The lawmaker being a former cop, I perfectly understood the methodology he employed to check and countercheck the present answers with the previous ones given. He was doing a good job, too.

Nice try, though. We, journalists guard the identities of our sources with our lives — when anonymity is made a precondition before the grant of an interview or the release of documents.

In that particular case, there was not even a source that may be identified by probers as the material — vetted as to its content by this Contrarian — was coursed through me under what we in media call an “anonymous drop.”

“Is it possible that you know the identity of the person who may have left the material hanging in the gate of your house?” the senator asked me. “Is it possible that he knows you?”

“Those possibilities, as all possibilities are, cannot be discounted your honor,” I answered, by that time already accustomed to being in front of the media cameras instead of being behind one.

“As to the second question, you may infer that the source knows enough, that I am a journalist, to hedge that I would write a story about the materials, thus they were given to me, albeit not directly,” I added.

At the end of the hearing, another senator came to where I was seated and told me that she did not realize my story was all she needed to get media traction for the month.

Therein lies the problem. Many politicians mainly use congressional hearings to get free media mileage, especially during election seasons. Reality check.

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