Fariñas wants PH Congress to have own police force

Bea Cupin
Fariñas wants PH Congress to have own police force
The proposed Philippine Legislative Police envisions Congress enforcing its own powers of contempt and arrest, as well as provide security for legislators and their families

MANILA, Philippines – Citing the need for “the independence” of the country’s legislative branch, House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas has filed a bill that would create the Philippine Legislative Police (PLP).

Its goal is to enforce Congress’ – the Senate and the House of Representatives – powers of contempt, and the issuances of subpoenas, summonses, and warrants of arrest, according to Fariñas explanatory note in House Bill Number 6208, which he filed on August 16, 2017.

As it stands, it’s the country’s various law enforcements agencies – the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others – that enforces congress’ contempt orders and warrants of arrest. Those agencies are under the executive branch.

Fariñas cited the case of Ronnie Dayan, former bodyguard of Senator Leila de Lima, who was ordered arrested for failing to appear before a House probe despite several summons.

It was the PNP which eventually apprehended Dayan, who was among the many resource persons in an investigation which linked De Lima to the illegal drug industry in the New Bilibid Prison.

“Congress is helpless to do anything if the PNP and other law enforcement agencies, which have been commissioned by the Congress to enforce and execute its orders, are remiss of their assigned duties,” said Fariñas. The PNP is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

“The reliance of Congress on the law enforcement agencies of the Executive Department in the protection of its Members and the enforcement and execution of its power impairs, to a large extent, the independence of Congress from the Executive Department,” he added.

The proposed PLP will, more or less, have the same qualifications, salaries and benefits of the existing PNP. Their mandate, however, will be limited to “providing safety and security to every Member of Congress and the enforcement and execution of the orders of Congress in the exercise of its powers.”

The PLP will exist alongside the existing Officers of the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant-at-Arms will also oversee the daily operations of the PLP.

HB No. 6208 lists down the following as powers and functions of the PLP:

  • Secure the safety of all Members of Congress, their spouses, and relatives, up to the second degree of consanguinity, upon determination and validation that their lives are under threat; 
  • Protect the properties of Congress and ensure the safety of its employees, visitors, and others persons who are in the premises of Congress; 
  • Maintain peace and order and conduct patrol duties, communications, intelligence gathering and access control systems in the premises of Congress; 
  • Coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to maximize collection and sharing of intelligence information for purposes of identifying threats to Congress of any of its members, their spouses, and relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity; 
  • Prevent crimes, effect the arrest of criminal offenders, investigate the commission of all crimes and offenses committeed within the jurisdiction of the Congress, and assist in the prosecution thereof; 
  • Coordinate the issuance of licenses for the possession of, and permit to cary, firearms to Members of Congress, the PLP personnel, and the Secretariat employees of both houses of Congress, as well as the congressional staff of incumbent Members of Congress; 
  • Serve subpoenas and warrants that the Congress may issue; 
  • Purchase firearms, ammunition, and other equipment necessary for the performance of its function; 
  • Issue Mission Orders and Memorandum of Receipt for the purpose of providing its personnel with firearms, ammunitions, and other equipment; and 
  • Perform and exercise all other powers and functions necessary to implement the provisions of this Act.

The PLP will be “governed” by a board, composed of the chairpersons of the House and Senate committees on public order, the Sargeant-at-Arms of both Houses, and will be chaired by a retired police or military general appointed by both the Senate President and House Speaker.

The Board will be in charge of administrative, logistical, and operational control over the PLP. It will also be under the review of the leaders of both chambers’ leaders.

At present, security in both chambers of Congress is the duty of their respective segeants-at-arms. Both private security personnel and PNP members are typically tapped to secure their respective compounds. 

Legislators may also request for a security detail from the PNP, typically through the Police Security Protection Group (PSPG).  

As of posting, HB 6208 does not seem to have a counterpart measure at the Senate.

A police force directly under the legislature may sound unique in the Philippines but in other countries, it has been in place for a long time. In the United States, for example, some federal police forces report to the legislative branches of government. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.