Privileged Speech of
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz C. Ilagan
December 11, 2007
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege regarding the Batasan Blast, last November 13, 2007.
That fateful day will be forever etched in my mind.
Session had adjourned at 8:00 in the evening and those who had stayed on to finish the proceedings were walking towards the South Wing entrance of the Batasan Complex. I was with my colleague from Gabriela, Congresswoman Liza Maza, her driver and security detail, my staff, Lorraine Gallegos and my driver, Marcial Taldo. As Manong Marcial needed to fetch our parked van, he went ahead of us. Congresswoman Maza and her security meanwhile decided to go back to their office at the third floor.
From the lobby, we could already see our white Toyota Hi-Ace van. My staff and I proceeded to board our van from the left side of the vehicle since it was a converted van. As I was about to board van, we were stunned by a deafening explosion and a very bright light coming from the left side.
My staff and I managed to walk away from the van, propelled by a strong gust of wind, towards the center of the south wing rotunda. Suddenly, my legs buckled down and upon touching my thigh, I realized that my right leg was bleeding. I looked back at the van, trying to search for our driver. I couldn’t see him, the area was filled with smoke while several people were frantically going to and fro the explosion area.
That was when a man approached us and assisted us away from the blast. Another lady called the police for assistance so that we could board the police patrol car. With us was another wounded lady. All three of us were rushed to the Malvar General Hospital.
Several hours afterwards, I learned that Manong Marcial was the first casualty of the blast. His slumped body remained at the steering wheel despite attempts from our staff left at the House of Representatives to insist that he be removed. A colleague and fellow Mindanaoan, Congressman Wahab Akbar and 3 others also died. Several more, including Congressman Henry Teves were seriously injured.
It was indeed a harrowing experience.
Mr. speaker, it has almost been a month since that brazen attack on the House of Representatives. A lot has happened since then. A house filled with incriminating paraphernalia in the nearby Payatas community of was raided; suspects stupid enough to stay within a few kilometers’ radius from the scene of the crime were arrested and presented to the media. Charges have been filed and so-called masterminds identified.
The Philippine National Police, in record time has declared the case solved but not closed. The manner with which they conducted their investigation is an insult. The investigation that was conducted was so hastily done, its conclusions drew more questions than answers.
More so that the suspects who at first, so conveniently corroborated the PNP’s theory and even pinpointed masterminds now claim at being tortured into admission. They have recanted their statements. Their voices have added to the cacophony of confusion and perplexing questions.
Who were the targets? Five people died and several more were seriously injured. Was a single individual its sole target or was it the House of Representatives as an institution? What was the motive of the attack?
That it occurred at the eve of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice impeachment hearings and the Senate investigation on the ZTE scandal raises suspicion that it was meant to divert the public’s attention or send a strong political message to the House of Representatives. Indisputably, it is clear that the House of Representatives is the target of the blast.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, the victims are scarred physically and emotionally. While physical injuries can heal the trauma of the brazen attack can remain forever.
Mr. Speaker, I do not feel safe. I do not think anybody in this chamber does, knowing at the back of our minds that anyone of us could have been the target of that blast. We will know no peace, no security, until such time that a credible, impartial investigation is conducted, the real perpetrators are prosecuted and justice is served to the victims.
The House of Representatives owes it to the victims and our families, to every one of us and to our constituents to have an impartial probe on this tragedy.
I have raised doubts and questioned the investigation and the hastily arrived at conclusions of the Philippine National Police. We in Gabriela Women’s Party have long been calling for a thorough, independent, impartial investigation of the blast.
Mr. Speaker, we have filed House Resolution 331 calling for the creation of a special multi-party committee of members of the House of Representatives from the majority, the minority, the Liberal Party, Gabriela Women’s Party and LAKAS-NUCD representing Reps. Wahab Akbar, Henry Teves and myself, to conduct a parallel investigation on the November 13 attack on the House of Representatives and for the said committee to render a report to the House of Representatives upon the conclusion of its investigation. I call on you my colleagues to support our call for justice and urge immediate action on this resolution.
We cannot rest until justice is served.