August 25, 2001, Inquirer, 7 senators reject plan to stop Lacson probe, by Christine Herrera, Philip C. Tubeza and Armand N. Nocum, Inquirer News Service,
Posted: 11:40 PM (Manila Time)
Magsaysay admits mistake
AN informal phone survey conducted by an alliance of civil-society groups has shown that at least seven senators are opposed to the proposal of their colleagues, Senators Blas Ople and Teresa Aquino-Oreta, to stop the public hearings on Sen. Panfilo Lacson's alleged criminal activities.
"The senators rejected the Ople-Oreta proposal to stop the probe. They said it was premature to terminate the proceedings at this point. Most of them wanted to hear the testimony of (witness Danny) Devnani," Jesuit priest Carmelo Caluag, convenor of the newly formed Samahan para sa Katotohanan at Kinabukasan (Katotohanan), told the INQUIRER Saturday.
According to Caluag, the seven senators who gave the assurance that the hearings would proceed were Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Renato Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Ralph Recto, Rodolfo Biazon and Sergio Osmeña III.
In a statement, Magsaysay said he "made a mistake in implying" on Friday that the Senate committee on national defense, which he chairs, was inclined to withdraw from the hearings.
"We will pursue the probe more vigorously until the truth, which the people have the right to know, comes out," he said, adding that "it is honorable for a man to admit a mistake in exchange for the truth."
Even Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel said he was not in favor of the Ople-Oreta proposal that the public hearings be immediately terminated.
Pimentel told reporters at the weekly Sulo Hotel press forum that he would suggest a suspension of the hearings instead because there might be evidence forthcoming from the US Justice Department.
He said he knew "for a fact" that Justice Secretary Hernando Perez had officially asked US Attorney General John Ashcroft for copies of certain documents related to the Lacson investigation.
"I think (a termination of the hearings) is a wrong move. It will raise suspicion in the mind of the public that we are trying to cover up for our colleagues," Pimentel said, adding:
"Secondly, the better procedure is . . . to suspend the proceedings so that the burden of producing the evidence necessary to establish responsibility would now fall on the shoulders of the DOJ (Department of Justice) and (military intelligence chief) Col. Victor Corpus. Maybe that is the best way out of the situation."
On Friday, Ople and Oreta said the two Senate hearings had so far yielded no solid evidence of Lacson’s supposed involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping for ransom and other crimes. Magsaysay said on the same day that as far as he was concerned, "the two long hearings are good enough."
But on Saturday, Father Caluag quoted the survey respondents, including Magsaysay, as saying that they were prepared to end the hearings only after the testimony of all the witnesses had been heard and the evidence reviewed.