Bespoke police for Congress?

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas has another eyebrow-raising proposal: the establishment of a Philippine Legislative Police, or PLP, a dedicated force to provide security to senators and congressmen.

The proposed House Bill 6208 is supposed to make Congress more independent, as it would no longer depend on the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the Executive Branch to serve subpoenas to witnesses or resource persons invited to appear in legislative inquiries.

It is also meant to provide better security to lawmakers, some of whom have been targets of assassination.

“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 powers impairs to a large extent the independence of Congress from the Executive Department,” Fariñas claims.

The bill has gained support from 63 members of the House who have signed the measure as co-authors. A former PNP official, Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan, was named head of a technical working group to study the proposal.

The chairman of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, Rep. Romeo Acop of Antipolo, also an ex-PNP general, wants to mimic the 2,100-strong United States Capitol Police, which has been securing American lawmakers and the US Capitol grounds for 200 years.

The proposal for a congressional police force in the Philippines seems whimsical and reeks of self-entitlement. There is no need for a PLP.

It is easy to see why the US Congress has its own police force, aside from, obviously, having more financial resources. The United States does not have a national police, as policing is the responsibility of local governments. There is no national police command that can assemble a law enforcement unit dedicated to lawmakers.

The PNP, on the other hand, already has the Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) whose job is to secure high officials of government.

If Fariñas’ complaint is that there are only less than a hundred policemen securing Congress, then the solution is to hire more personnel for the PSPG, and by extension, expand the PNP to protect all citizens, not just congressmen.

The PSPG already has the expertise and experience in protecting VIPs and built-in administrative capacity, and expanding it would be more efficient and cost-effective than fashioning an entirely new law enforcement agency from scratch.

Of course, one needs to read the bill to discover what it really is all about. The PLP will be tasked to secure “members of the Congress, their spouses, and relatives, up to the second degree of consanguinity, upon determination and validation that their lives are under threat.”

It will also be tasked to “maximize collection and sharing of intelligence information for purposes of identifying threats to Congress or any of its members, their spouses, and relatives, up to the second degree of consanguinity.”

Moreover, it will “coordinate the issuance of licenses for the possession of, and permits to carry firearms to members of Congress” and others.

The skeptical public has to be forgiven for fearing abuse of the functions of the proposed PLP, especially with the very proponent of the bill proposing just recently to exempt lawmakers from traffic rules so they could be on time for their plenary sessions that, by the way, are held very late in the afternoon.

The PLP would most likely become nothing more than rank display of power and privilege. We wonder if the conscientious members of Congress would be able to sleep soundly at night with their bespoke police force while citizens fear for their lives on the streets.

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