MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Thursday that the hearing on a weapons deal allegedly involving Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno is not being boycotted by the senators.
Lacson said he has a previous engagement set for Friday, the day the Senate probe was scheduled.
“Siguro mali ‘yung salitang ‘boycott.’ Katulad halimbawa ako at si Senator Gringo [Honasan], mayroong kaming engagement sa Iloilo bukas at talagang hindi kami makaka-attend sa hearing,” he told dzMM’s “Pasada Sais Trenta.”
Lacson noted, however, that even if he was free on Friday, he may still opt to not attend the hearing, citing the rules of the Senate, which requires a resolution, a privilege speech or a pending bill before a probe.
“Baka hindi rin [ako pumunta] kasi baka makwestyon pagdating sa floor ‘yung aksyon na gagawin na bakit ako sumama sa isang pagdinig na walang referral,” Lacson said.
Lacson said only the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is permitted to call a hearing “motu propio,” even without a referral or a resolution.
“’Yung Senate Blue Ribbon lamang ang maaaring tumawag ng public hearing on its own maski walang resolution, maski walang bill at referral sa committee. All other committees, kailangan ma-refer sa kanya-kanyang committees bago tumawag ng hearing,” the senator said.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Code and Laws, initiated the probe on the “Evaluation of the DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno Event, under the Administrative Code and the 1990 DILG Act, as amended by 1998 Police Reform Act.”
However, she said not a single senator from the 11-member committee has confirmed attendance for Friday’s hearing.
Lacson believes the members of the committee may have chosen not to participate in Friday’s probe because of the Senate rules, saying it is “a matter of procedure.”
Lacson added that President Aquino’s statement that he ordered Puno to secure the offices of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo was not a factor in their decision.
“It is a non-issue. Rules talaga ang titignan namin, kung magsalita si President Aquino o hindi, magre-refer pa din kami sa rules,” he said.
Most of the individuals invited for Friday’s hearing, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Philippine National Police chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome, have already confirmed attendance.
But the presence of at least two senators is needed to form a quorum.