Senator Joker Arroyo on Wednesday opposed the move of the Senate to suspend its investigation on the August 23 hostage massacre, saying the chamber should at least probe how the broadcast media's actions affected the outcome of the hostage-taking.
"The Senate joint committees investigating the unfortunate hostage situation should continue its probe, at least [with] respect to the role played by the media," Arroyo said as he took the floor during the day's session.
On Tuesday, Senator Gregorio Honasan, head of the Senate committee on public order, said he and his colleagues have agreed to suspend the hearings regarding the incident until the Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Justice come out with a final investigation report.
But Arroyo stressed that the Senate cannot "abdicate" its responsibility to conduct a separate and independent inquiry because it has the duty to conduct a review under the uniform terms of the franchise it gives to broadcast media.
"Unlike print media which is immune to prior licensing, broadcast media operates only if Congress grants it a legislative franchise and the Executive gives it a frequency, in both instances subject to certain conditions that do not impair the constitutional right of press freedom," he said.
Arroyo said "crucial" questions need to be addressed, including whether broadcast media influenced the behavior of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza; whether the live broadcast compromised the security measures of law enforcers; whether there is a protocol in place for the media's involvement in crisis situations; and what the rules of engagement between media and law enforcers are during similar situations.
"This aspect should be pursued because of what appears to be the pivotal role of broadcast media in the outcome of the hostage drama that played out on national and international radio and TV," he said.
Reached for his comments, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the Senate was not abdicating from its responsibility if it momentarily suspends its own investigation.
For his part, Honasan said they will "take into account" the manifestation of Arroyo.
President Benigno Aquino III had earlier said that the media’s live coverage of the hostage crisis “severely hampered" police efforts to rescue the hostages.
For his part, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo explained that the live coverage robbed police of the “element of surprise" in dealing with hostage-taker.
Robredo noted that at least three of the hostage survivors said Mendoza became agitated after seeing what was happening on television. — RSJ/KBK/HS, GMANews.TV