MIRIAM SLAMS COLLEAGUES; SEES "DELIBERATE BOYCOTT" OF PUNO PROBE



[PHOTO FROM INQUIRER- “Pointless” to further question former Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, says his inquisitor Sen. Miriam Santiago on the latter’s alleged links to illegal logging, “jueteng,” and the purchase of overpriced firearms during a Senate inquiry on Friday. Also at the hearing are PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome (center) and retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz. INQUIRER, RAFFY LERMA]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 (PHILSTAR) Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday accused some of her colleagues of bootlicking President Aquino and his allies for their own interest in next year’s elections.

Santiago criticized Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, whom she described as wanting to be in the good graces of Malacañang to help boost the senatorial bid of his son, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile Jr.

“They favored Malacañang, because some of the senators have vested interest in the coming elections. Because it would be difficult for them to go against the administration. If possible, they would have to do some favors for the administration whether you belong to the ruling political party or not,” Santiago said in a radio interview with dzBB.

Santiago headed the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, in the hearing last Friday to “evaluate” the powers of resigned Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary Rico Puno.

“If you cannot put yourself or your son... or if you are already graduating from the Senate and you wanted a position in the government, of course you have to do some favors for Malacañang,” she said.

[PHOTO FROM INQUIRER -NOT QUITE BALLISTIC Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago appears to be imploring the heavens as she grills former Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno who issues nothing but blanket denials during the Senate inquiry. Most of Santiago’s colleagues did not show up. Only Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III did. RAFFY LERMA]

Santiago said a majority of the senators were reluctant to face the challenge of looking into Puno’s powers and backers “because they know he is close to President Aquino” because they both came from Tarlac.

Puno is also allied with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, the senator noted.

“It looks as if you are challenging Malacañang if you are supporting the investigation against Puno... that’s why I ask them in English, ‘What’s there not to like about me? We are all senators’,” Santiago said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson is on his second and last term, and he would vie possibly for a government post in the Aquino Cabinet once his term ends in May next year, Santiago said.

Lacson said it was not in his character to lobby for posts, even during the time of former President Joseph Estrada.

Lacson pointed out he and other senators, including Enrile, were concerned that the Senate rules are followed to the letter to avoid any legal issues once the hearing is questioned before the Supreme Court.

Santiago said she is disappointed over Malacañang’s effort to exert influence on some Cabinet members and some senators to derail the hearing she scheduled without the benefit of a resolution or a privilege speech last Friday.

The hearing proceeded as scheduled last Friday after two senators arrived to constitute a quorum.

Santiago was angered by the way Enrile and Lacson questioned the legality of the public hearing due to lack of a resolution and/or a privilege speech.

“While will I be defensive when I am being attacked by my fellow senators, not Malacañang,” she asked.

Santiago noted only two lawmakers attended the Friday hearing, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

Both attended the hearing, which Santiago said, was made apparently to boost their bids in next year’s national elections.

While the two senators want to side with the administration, Santiago said the public exposure of the hearing will help Cayetano and Pimentel in their re-election bids.

Television is the most effective medium of reaching out to the people, she said.

“Now you weigh (these circumstances), even if you are independent-minded, you will think that the administration will not take you at fault (for attending the hearing) because we should be allowed to exercise our freedom of conscience,” she said.

Santiago though admitted she pleaded with Cayetano and Pimentel, her former student, to attend last Friday’s hearing.

But even without Cayetano and Pimentel, Santiago said she would still have continued the hearing on Puno.

“The only thing (that) can stop me is to have me shot or shipped to the International Criminal Court (ICC). But they cannot do that because they do not have jurisdiction over ICC.”

Santiago had been appointed as ICC judge early this year but she has requested to be called to duty by next year.

Further pressed for message to her critics, Santiago added: “Die!” before she burst into laughter during a radio interview yesterday where she revealed her disappointment over the alleged attempt to sabotage last Friday’s hearing on Puno.

No House probe on Puno

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II explained yesterday that the House does not intend to duplicate the Senate inquiry on Puno.

“Following tradition and as a matter of courtesy to the Senate, we had no plan to repeat what they started, in the same way that they don’t repeat our inquiries,” Gonzales said.

As the official trafficking the business of the House, Gonzales said in addition that he has not given clearance to any inquiry into the PNP firearms deals.

“In the first place, there is no proposed investigation to clear. I have not seen the supposed resolution on the PNP procurements allegedly filed,” he said.

“Besides, the House has no time for this inquiry, even if they formally ask for it, or for any other probe. We are focused on the proposed P2-trillion 2013 national budget,” Gonzales pointed out.

He said they expect to approve the budget proposal on second reading this week before the first two-week congressional recess starting on Saturday.

Gonzales said the spending bill would be printed during the break and put to a third and final-reading vote when session resumes middle of October. – Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz

FROM GMA NEWS7

Miriam sees colleagues' 'deliberate boycott' of Puno probe KIMBERLY JANE TAN, GMA News September 13, 2012 7:12pm

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday expressed fear that the investigation on resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno is in danger of being “sabotaged” for lack of quorum and the absence of Puno himself.

"If it happens, such a deliberate boycott will indicate that even my fellow senators who are members of my committee do not support my initiative,” she said in a statement.

Santiago threatened to “raise a protest” although she admitted she’s still “thinking at the moment of what form my protest will take.”

Santiago had called the investigation in her capacity as chair of the Senate committee on Constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws. No resolutions had been filed calling for such an investigation, prompting the Senate leadership to study its validity.

Attendance

Santiago said when her staff contacted all the members of her committee, not a single senator confirmed attendance. Many of them reportedly said they would be out of town.

The vice chair of the committee is Sen. Edgardo Angara while the other members are Senators Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Antonio Trillanes, Manny Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Ferdinand Marcos, and Koko Pimentel.

The ex-officio members are Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, and Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

The Senate rules require that there should be at least two senators present to form a quorum at a committee hearing.

Santiago said if no quorum is reached, "this can only mean that the senators have been ordered by Malacañang to stay away."

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also admitted that majority of senators see possible problems in the validity of the investigation.

A search on the Senate website indicates that Santiago had filed a resolution last September 10 seeking an inquiry on the bidding and purchase of allegedly overpriced firearms by the Philippine National Police, which was under Puno. The measure was allegedly withdrawn.

No Puno too?

But aside from the senators, Santiago said Puno, who announced his resignation three days before the Senate investigation, may also skip Friday's hearing. She said even though many of the other resource persons have confirmed their attendance, Puno himself has yet to give them a reply.

Puno reportedly said he has yet to receive his invite but the senator said her staff had sent out the invitations last Monday, a day before Puno announced his resignation through a statement.

Craven

She said that if Puno does not show up “then it will show that he is a craven coward, that all charges against him are probably true, and that he is thumbing his nose at the Filipino public.”

“He has to be present and invoke the privilege for every question. That is not a ground for an omnibus refusal to answer all questions or to be absent,” Santiago said.

Santiago had earlier said that she will issue a subpoena for invited resource persons who will skip the hearing.

“If the Senate President refuses to sign the subpoena, in effect he will disapprove the committee recommendation, which is not normal,” she said. — KBK, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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