LAWMAKERS, including a veteran congressman who is serving his seventh term this 17th Congress, questioned yesterday what they described as alleged violation of House rules after the Committee on Justice permitted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to lead the direct examination of witnesses kidnapping convict Rodolfo Magleo and convicted armed robber and suspected drug dealer Herbert Colangco.
Under House rules, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a member of the Legitimate 8 or the genuine opposition, pointed out that only panel members have the right to pose direct questions to witnesses being presented during a congressional probe.
“Authority or no authority, that is still violation of rules. I think they [committee members] might have overlooked rules of the House (when they allowed Aguirre),” Lagman, a member of 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th Congress, told reporters in a press conference, recalling that only lawmakers have been allowed to ask direct questions in numerous congressional hearings that he had attended in the past.
“If Aguirre is acting as counsel of the witnesses, under the rules of the House and under tradition, the lawyer cannot direct questions to the witness. He should pass questions through the committee or committee chair,” Lagman pointed out. “What happened [today] is violation of rules of the House.”
The House Committee on Justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali permitted Aguirre to ask Magleo and Colangco a direct question.
In the same press conference yesterday, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, also a member of the Legitimate 8, lamented the supposed violation of House rules.
“Hindi member ng committee ang nagtatanong. Ang nangyayari, parang siya [Aguirre] ang kumuha ng testimony, siya rin ang nagtatanong,” Alejano said who admitted that he had planned to question the proceeding by the House committee on justice, but later decided to bring the matter to the media.
At the same time, Alejano lamented the decision of the House leadership to give immunity to six witnesses in the congressional probe while the Senate leadership rejected protective custody for confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hit man Edgar Matobato.