By Wilnard Bacelonia

CAUTION. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri conducts a press briefing on Tuesday (May 7, 2024). He reminded his colleagues that public inquiries in aid of legislation should not be used for political persecution. (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday reminded his colleagues to be careful in the conduct of public inquiries, which he said should not be used for political persecution.

Zubiri issued the reminder during a press briefing after monitoring the public hearing conducted by the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa where, the Senate President noted, “very serious accusations have been made” without evidence.

“While certain claims were made, documentary evidence is yet to be presented. There were no pictures, no corroborating testimonies. In other words, this was solely based on the testimony of one person based on what appears to be hearsay evidence,” he said.

Zubiri noted that former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agent Jonathan Morales presented a document, “which he claims to have seen, by virtue of his former position, although he did not personally witness any wrongdoing.”

In a recent Senate hearing, Morales provided testimony on the purported “authenticity” of leaked 2012 documents allegedly implicating then Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and actress Maricel Soriano to illegal drug use.

“The drug test of the President is being brought up, even though it does not appear to be germane to the subject of the motu proprio investigation,” Zubiri said.

Under a court of law, the Senate President noted that guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

He said while legislative inquiries are very liberal in terms of adhering to rules of evidence, hearings should be aimed at “ferreting out the truth using evidence and facts.”

“Otherwise, the faith of people in inquiries in aid of legislation may be diminished, especially when it causes reputational damage to other parties,” Zubiri said, noting that it could lead to the Senate losing its credibility as an institution.

In a separate press briefing, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said he is convinced that Morales is a “liar” and might be the one who leaked the supposedly confidential documents of PDEA allegedly containing the names of President Marcos and other well-known personalities.

Wala siyang ebidensya. Ewan ko kung sino ang naglagay ng pangalan ng Presidente, and other well-known personalities in show business and politics. Wala namang makakapagpatunay, pati PDEA, na sangkot yung mga personalidad na sinasabi ni Morales (He has no evidence. I don’t know who put the name of the President, and other well-known personalities in show business and politics. No one, not even PDEA, can prove that the personalities Morales is talking about are involved),” he said.

During the hearing itself, Estrada put into question the credibility of Morales who had been dishonorably dismissed from service and could not recall the identity of his source of information, as well as the time when he was dismissed from police service before his stint in PDEA.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero told the panel that testimonies from witnesses should only be limited to their knowledge.

He said any information received by the witness from other individuals should be verified by inviting that person to the hearing.

“When we subscribe our witnesses to tell only the truth and nothing but the truth, it is limited only to what he knows based on his personal knowledge, what he knows to be, and known to him to be known to be,” Escudero said.

He also suggested that the hearing should focus on determining where the alleged leaked document came from.

Kung ang posisyon po ng chairman ay authentic yung dokumento, dapat po isama sa magiging inquiry ng komiteng ito ay kung authentic yung dokumentong yun at gaya nga ng sabi ng chairman, may butas yung papel, eh di dapat po sumentro na ang imbestigasyong ito sa kung sino yung bumunot doon sa folder na pinanggalingan ng dokumento na sabi ng chairman authentic (If the position of the chairman is that the document is authentic, it should be included in the inquiry of this committee if that document is authentic, and as the chairman said, there is a hole in the paper. This investigation should focus on who pulled out the document from the folder that the chairman said was authentic),” Escudero said.

Last Tuesday, House of Representatives Deputy Majority Leader and Tingog Partylist Rep. Jude Acidre, Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy, and Assistant Majority Leader and Taguig City 2nd District Rep. Amparo Maria Zamora said the former agent’s testimony is part of a “larger effort to discredit and destabilize” the current administration. (PNA)