Solon backs bid for Congress to have own police force

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2017 12:19 PM | Updated as of Sep 26 2017 05:27 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The proposal for Congress to have its own police force has gained the support of at least one lawmaker.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon on Tuesday said he backs Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas' proposition, saying the creation of a Legislative Police Force is a "logical step" in ensuring the security of Congress without having to rely on the police and the military.

These personnel "should be focused on performing their original mandated functions instead of being assigned to secure legislators and legislative facilities," Biazon said.

"This draws the line of distinction between the executive and legislative, enhancing independence from each other," he said in a statement.

Biazon said Fariñas' proposal is not new or unique, citing the United States Capitol Police (USCP) which safeguards members of Congress, employees, visitors, and Congressional buildings and grounds.

"As an ultimate effect, the legislative process and institution is protected. The existing legislative security is insufficient to fulfill this role because it lacks police authority, firepower and the equipment to perform the appropriate security function," he said.

Through House Bill 6208, Fariñas wants to establish a Philippine Legislative Police (PLP) that will create a "safe and secure environment" for lawmakers to fully exercise their responsibilities with independence.

The police force will protect the properties of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and ensure that the mandate and authority vested in all lawmakers remain unobstructed. 

Through the PLP, Congress will be empowered to enforce and execute its powers of contempt and issuance of subpoenas, summonses and warrants of arrest. 

For Farinas, Congress' reliance on the executive's law enforcement agencies impairs to a large extent the independence of Congress.

He added Congress does not have enough manpower and capability to provide security to its members in performing their duties.

The bill proposes that officers will have the same qualifications, salaries and benefits, retirement age and equivalent rank of members of the PNP.

The Sergeants at Arms of both the Senate and House will oversee daily operations of the PLP.

OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS DISAGREE

Opposition congressmen Gary Alejano, Edcel Lagman, and Tom Villarin however scoffed at the proposal of Fariñas.

Magdalo Rep. Alejano said the proposal needs to be studied, arguing that it may only be a duplication of the Philippine National Police.

"...Parang magiging duplication lang sa function ng PNP. Baka mamaya sasabihin ng taumabayan bumubuo kami ng private army for the congressmen,” he said.

Lagman meanwhile said a separate police force for lawmakers seems unnecessary.

 “Do we have enemies? I don't know if there's any growing concern and request from members of the House for the legislative police. I don't think its necessary," Albay Rep. Lagman said, adding that the measure sends the "wrong signals" 

Akbayan Rep. Villarin scored the attitude of lawmakers on their privileges and entitlements, noting a proposal for lawmakers to be granted immunity from traffic violations.

”It seems there's a growing impunity on privileges and entitlements being sought after with this kind of proposal... Sa tingin ko hindi na ito tama. Dapat taumbayan should react on these issues,” he said.