Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri really knows how to exploit a situation for his own political benefit.
Back in May 2007, Zubiri ran for senator and placed 12th, the last among the winners in the senate race. His rival, Aquilino Pimentel III, filed an election protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), citing massive fraud allegedly committed by the Zubiri camp during the campaign and canvass.
When word got around in August 2011 that the SET was set to rule in favor of Pimentel, Zubiri announced his resignation from the Senate. In a privileged speech delivered before the Senate, Zubiri said that he was resigning in order to spare his family and the Senate from the controversy surrounding the election protest. He also claimed that he was resigning to save the country from being divided because the accusations of election fraud made against him were unfounded.
What hogwash! If the accusations of against him were truly unfounded, Zubiri should have upheld his electoral mandate by bringing his case to the Supreme Court. Likewise, if he felt bad about those accusations, why did he wait until the last minute before resigning from office?
Political analysts said that Zubiri knew that he was going to be unseated by the SET and simply made the most of his embarrassing predicament by making it appear that he was “resigning to save the country” and suggest in the process that the nation owes him a debt of gratitude for his show of magnanimity.
In May 2016, the unfortunate happened—Zubiri returned to the Senate. That’s unfortunate because Zubiri once asserted that he was a family man first and a public official second. Being so, his priorities should be seen as highly suspect inasmuch as he has shown his extraordinary skill in exploiting any opportunity that can give him free publicity and political mileage.
Zubiri is now doing that, as seen in his on-going circus act in the Senate, a one-man road show masquerading as a legislative inquiry in aid of legislation. Right now, Zubiri’s circus act is the Senate investigation into the fatal hazing incident involving a fraternity in the University of Santo Tomas.
To recall, in September 2017, Horacio Castillo III, a law school freshman from UST, died after undergoing hazing in the hands of members of the Aegis Juris fraternity operating in that university. As expected, a public uproar ensued, and answers were sought from those who may have a hand in that awful incident. Society has reason to be outraged, of course, because it appears that the life of a promising young man was needlessly and violently ended by lawyers and law students to whom the youngster would have wanted to hitch his political aspirations. Deadly violence, after all, has no place in a university.
Apparently, three separate investigations were conducted on the fatal hazing incident by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Senate’s committee on public order.
The investigations being conducted by the DOJ and the PNP are expected under the circumstances precisely because these are the government agencies vested by law with the power to enforce the law and to investigate crime.
As for the investigation currently conducted by the Senate, its only claim to legitimacy is its label as an “inquiry in aid of legislation.” Simply put, this means that the Senate wants to obtain information about the UST hazing incident, which the Senate intends to use as a guide in drafting any possible amendments to the existing anti-hazing law.
So far, whatever claim to legitimacy the Senate committee on public order may have in investigating the UST hazing incident has been completely lost because of the way Zubiri has been comporting himself in the investigation itself. To all intents and purposes, the Senate investigation has become another Zubiri road show after Zubiri succeeded in dominating the investigation with his high-handedness in treating the witnesses who have been summoned to the investigation.
For starters, Zubiri lost his temper when the fraternity members invited to testify in the senate investigation invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination when they refused to answer certain questions. One of the witnesses even told Zubiri that since the hazing incident was already being investigated by the DOJ, it was best that their answers to Zubiri’s questions should be given instead to the DOJ so as not to pre-empt the proceedings in the latter. In a fit of anger, Zubiri denounced the witnesses for what he perceived as their outright refusal to cooperate in the investigation.
After scolding the witnesses, Zubiri got himself interviewed on a television program broadcast nationwide where he said that the witnesses were manifestly protecting their own interests, and that they were obviously guilty of causing the death of the young Castillo.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this essay is not intended to justify the death of Castillo, or to defend those who are responsible for the fatal hazing. The purpose of this essay is to put the record straight on how and why Zubiri is doing the public, the Castillo family in particular, a big disservice by the way he has been comporting himself in the Senate committee investigation.
What is Zubiri’s disservice all about?
A legislative inquiry in aid of legislation is authorized under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. By its very nomenclature, such an inquiry is for the sole purpose of obtaining information that may be useful in the enactment of future legislation, or the amendment of existing laws. For the record, Section 21 does not even use the term “investigation.”
From the way Zubiri has been behaving in the Senate legislative inquiry, however, the inquiry has become a full-scale prosecutorial forum, no different from preliminary investigations conducted by investigating prosecutors of the DOJ assigned to handle criminal cases. To the keen observer, the Zubiri investigation is no longer an inquiry in aid of legislation but a trial in criminal case.
To be continued