Press Release
February 23, 2006

Senate did not block move to return police powers to local executives

Contrary to the claim of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, the Senate did not block the clamor of mayors and governors to return the administrative and operational control over the local police to local government units, lawyer Antonio Gallardo, chief of staff and spokesperson of Senate President Franklin Drilon said today.

In a statement, Gallardo deplored that Atienza was "peddling lies" against the Senate when he declared in a recent gathering of local officials that the Senate had blocked the proposed devolution of police functions to local government units.

He noted that Atienza made the claim in an apparent effort to convince the public to support the campaign of the ruling Lakas-CMD political party led by House Speaker Jose De Venecia to amend the 1987 Constitution and transform the present presidential form of government to a parliamentary form of government.

Gallardo appealed to Atienza "to stick to the real issues in the cha-cha debates and avoid peddling white lies and inaccurate data to deceive the Filipino people into supporting Charter Change."

"It is unfortunate that Mayor Atienza has decided to board the Joe de Venecia-Lakas-CMD express train that will ram Charter Change down the throats of the Filipino people through the use of underhanded and unscrupulous means," Gallardo said.

On the Atienza claim that the Senate blocked the efforts of mayors and governors to get back control over the local police, Gallardo said this was not possible because records will show that in 1999, the Senate had approved the bill which would empower mayors and governors to effectively maintain peace and order in their localities through the devolution of police powers to local government units.

After its approval, Gallardo said, the Senate bill was transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The Lower House, however, unfortunately, failed to approve the measure.

Since 1946 when the Philippines attained its independence from the United States, Gallardo recalled "the Senate has stood gallantly and fearlessly in favor of individual liberties and freedoms, including freedom of speech and of the press, freedom from arbitrary arrests, the equal protection of the law and clean elections."

Gallardo also lamented that Atienza did a disservice to the nation by calling for the abolition of the Senate for its alleged history of "obstructionism."

He said Atienzas speech in a recent Manila rally advocating charter change was an "insult against the great Filipino statesmen, patriots and nationalists who had served in the Philippine Senate like President Manuel L. Quezon, President Manuel Roxas, Claro M. Recto, Jose P. Laurel, Camilo Osias, Lorenzo Taada, Ninoy Aquino, Jose W. Diokno and many others."

He added that it was also the Senate that exposed many corruption cases in government, including the Tambobong-Buenavista deal during the Quirino administration, the import control rackets and immigration scandals of the 50s and 60s and the massacre of Muslim soldiers on Corregidor Island prior to President Marcoss declaration of martial law.

"Senators like Taada and Diokno risked their lives in opposing the Marcos martial rule, and Aquino in fact was murdered for opposing the Marcos dictatorship," said Gallardo. "Since its existence, the Senate has been the bulwark of Filipino liberties and freedom, and has been a vanguard in the fight against corruption. Mr. Atienza, alas, succeeded in besmirching their noble names in order merely to serve his own inordinate ambitions."

"Is it obstructionism to investigate large-scale plunder of government funds like the P728 million fertilizer scam? Is it obstructionism to look into how the P35 billion recovered Marcos wealth was spent just in two years? Is it also obstructionism to find out how much the Northrail project was grossly overpriced?" Gallardo asked.

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