Friday, February 10, 2006


The reluctance of the government in investigating Virgilio Garcillano and the Garci wiretapping incident or Jocelyn Bolante and the fertilizer fund scam is inversely proportional to the alacrity with which it launch investigation on the Ultra incident. While the NBI, PNP, DILG, and DOJ refuses to seriously investigate the Garci Tapes and the Fertilizer Fund Scam, all these agencies including the NTC are now scrambling to get into the act of investigating the event which caused the death of seventy-four people. Even Rep. Rodante Marcoleta who, for a lawyer and a lawmaker, is still unaware that the Constitution prohibits members of Congress from practicing their profession, got into the act by offering legal service in filing a suit against ABS-CBN.

The designation of PNP Officers and Mayor Vicente Eusebio in the investigating body headed by the DILG is highly irregular since they themselves are, or should be, the subject of the investigation particularly on whether they failed to perform their duties under RA 6975 as Amended by RA 8551. Sec. 24 of RA 6975 or the PNP and DILG Act provides that :

Sec. 24. The PNP shall have the following functions:
a) Enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the protection of lives and property
b) Maintain peace and order and take all necessary steps to ensure public safety

Mayor Eusebio on the other hand is given operational control and supervision over the Pasig PNP as defined in Sec. 62 of RA 8551:

Sec. 62. “ The term operational control shall mean the power to direct police investigation … and traffic control…

It shall also include the power to direct the employment and deployment …of the PNP…to ensure public safety and …peace and order in the locality.

Employment refers to the utilization of the …PNP for the purpose of protection of lives and properties, enforcement of laws, maintenance of peace and order …and ensuring public safety

Under the Art. 34 of the Civil Code both the PNP and the Pasig government is liable if they are found to have been negligent, to wit:

Art. 34. When a member of the city or municipal police force refuses or fails to render aid or protection to any person in case of danger to life or property, such peace officer shall be primarily liable for damages and the city or municipality shall be subsidiarily responsible therefore.

Since the growing Ultra crowd has been camped in Pasig streets and public thoroughfares for days, the PNP and the Local Government is required to “take the necessary steps to ensure public safety” to preempt any possible threat to lives and property, with or without an invitation from the organizers. Strangely, Gen. Vidal Querol whose has wrongly but vigorously implemented the ‘calibrated preemptive response’ policy of Malacanang by violently dispersing much smaller crowds on the pretense that these rallies cause traffic, has not reacted with the same concern for the Ultra crowd.

It is not surprising that the fact finding body composed of the DILG, PNP and Mayor Eusebio absolved the DILG, the PNP and Mayor Eusebio from any liability.

The ABS CBN surely has responsibility for the tragedy in Ultra but the local government and the PNP, under the law, are equally responsible as well in ensuring the health and safety of the people who have been camped out in the streets of Pasig for days.

The fact that Sec. Raul Gonzales finds nothing wrong with the composition and processes of the DILG Task Force is a major cause for concern. We are concerned that he did not find anything wrong with the Report despite his public admission of the insufficiency of the evidence from which the Report was based. His vociferous attacks against critics of Pres. Arroyo immediately puts into doubt, rightly or wrongly, findings of the DOJ panel he created to investigate the possible liability of a perceived opponent of the President. The DOJ investigation therefore, will only exacerbate the situation as no credible resolution will come out of the process.

We view with alarm the highly politicized manner with which these agencies, including the NBI and the DOJ, have been exercising their powers. Considering their failure to investigate and indifference to the killing of militants, lawyers and journalists, their sudden interest and enthusiasm in an issue involving a perceived critic of Pres. Gloria Arroyo can only be interpreted as an attempt to use their office for the political benefit of the president.

To ensure credibility of the investigation process and assure that the victims are given justice for the possible criminal negligence of any or all the parties involved, CODAL urges the creation of an independent fact finding body composed of credible organizations or persons of known probity such as the IBP. CODAL urges that the DILG report be set aside and should not form part of any new investigation, due to the highly political and irregular process conducted by the DILG.

Lastly, CODAL expresses its agreement to the view that it was poverty that led the people to suffer the inconvenience and indignity of lining up for a chance to get a better life. In the end, it is the government as a whole who is morally responsible for the tragedy in Ultra.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Spokesperson
Date : 10 February 2006


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