Senators clash over Makati building probe

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 12 2014 05:35 PM | Updated as of Aug 13 2014 07:16 AM

Pimentel  asked to head committee to probe Makati building

MANILA (UPDATED) - Allies of Vice President Jejomar Binay questioned the Senate’s creation of a sub-committee under the blue ribbon committee to investigate the alleged overpricing in the construction of an office and parking building of the Makati government.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a resolution calling for the probe. Senator Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III will head the sub-committee.

In the session Tuesday, acting minority leader Tito Sotto questioned if the creation of a sub-committee is allowed by the rules, saying that if the committee chair would decline to preside over the hearing, the vice-chair should take over.

“That brings me to the next question. Can I also request that I conduct a hearing and create a sub-committee for let’s say, the Malampaya fund scam, media killings, can I do that also? Apparently, the issue being discussed here, Senate Resolution 826, is a local matter,” Sotto said on the floor.

The session was suspended as senators went back to consult the Senate rules.

In the end, Senate President Franklin Drilon decided to let the committee resolve Sotto’s question.

“The chair rules that Senate Resolution 826, having been referred to the committee on accountability and public officers (blue ribbon), the issue raised by Senator Sotto will be raised at the committee, in the committee hearing, because that is a matter now before the committee and not before the plenary. The committee will rule on the points raised by acting minority leader in accordance with rules,” Drilon said.

Speaking to reporters, Senator Pimentel said he had asked to lead the committee hearing.

Pimentel sees nothing wrong in presiding over the hearing even if he was a former party-mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay and had close family relations with the Binays.

Pimentel said he would be objective and fair in handling the hearing.

“Ayos man [kami] o hindi ayos, hindi konektado dito sa issue na ito basta mas mabuti na nga ‘yun na ang nagche-chair ay datin niyang kasama sa partido, anak ng matalik niyang kaibigan, kumpare ng anak niya na mayor because I will be objective as chairman of this sub-committee,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said he had asked to lead the hearing since the issue is in line with his advocacy on combating corruption in local governments. The issue, he pointed out, also touches on local government financing.

The sub-committee will jointly conduct the hearing with the select oversight committee on local government code, also chaired by Pimentel.

Pimentel has set two hearing dates on the matter: August 19 and 26.

For the first hearing, the committee will invite the complainants, representatives from the Commission on Audit, and the DILG, specifically one that handles local government finance.

Asked if Binay would be invited, Pimentel said this would depend on the progress of the first hearing.

Senator TG Guingona said allowing another senator to lead a hearing has a precedent.

“We’ve done [this]… the investigation of the housing yung kay Delfin Lee was requested by Senator JV and I acceded. So ganoon lang ‘yun,” Guingona told reporters.


Senator Nancy Binay also took exception to the creation of a sub-committee, insisting that the Senate should not be used for politics especially since her father has announced plans to run for president.

She said Trillanes should just have filed an impeachment case.

“Kung mayroon siyang issue, mayroon siyang allegation of corruption or anything, I think the proper forum for him is to file an impeachment complaint against my father,” Binay told reporters.

Trillanes invoked public interest in calling for the probe.

“Abangan natin next week sa hearing. Kung walang ebidensya, so ibig sabihin talagang pulitika. I will fall flat on my face but if not, kung mayroon naman tayong nakitang ebidensya, aba delikado ‘yun kasi kung ‘yung magiging presidente natin ay magnanakaw pala, kailangan malaman ng taumbayan ‘yun,” Trillanes said.