MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Yet again, senators tried but failed to get answers from Erlinda Ligot and her husband, former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, on their alleged ill-gotten wealth, prompting one senator to move to cite them in contempt during the seventh hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee on military corruption.
Pressed for answers on her alleged properties in the US and the Philippines and several travels abroad while her husband was in the military, Mrs. Ligot repeatedly invoked her right against self-incrimination.
She either invoked her right or said she could not remember even when shown pictures of her alleged properties in the US, including her signature in a deed of sale.
Mrs. Ligot explained that the issues raised are part of their forfeiture case in the Sandiganbayan, and that any answer she would give might be taken against her.
"'Yon po ang payo ng lawyer ko eh," Ligot told Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada during Monday's hearing.
But Estrada argued that some of the questions, like if her husband knows of her travels abroad, are not included in the case.
At one point, Estrada noticed that Mrs. Ligot was calm in answering questions, unlike in the previous hearing when she even had to be excused due to hypertension.
"Mukhang confident na confident kayo sumagot," Estrada said.
"Naka-Valium po ako," replied Mrs. Ligot, referring to the drug used to relieve anxiety.
Later in the hearing, however, Mrs. Ligot broke down and cried when asked repeatedly if her husband ever knew of her travels. As in the previous hearing, the Senate doctor had to check her blood pressure.
Like in previous hearings, too, retired Gen. Ligot refused to answer the senators' questions.
Estrada asked him about the properties they acquired when he and Mrs. Ligot were married. But Gen. Ligot invoked his right against self-incrimination.
"That is not included the charge sheet, Gen. Ligot!" an irked Estrada said. "I'm asking you: Is that included in the charge sheet? The issue is not included, so why don't you answer us? How can that incriminate you when it's not included?"
"Pasensya na po," Gen. Ligot replied, citing their case at the Sandiganbayan.
Ligots in contempt?
This prompted Estrada to move to cite the Ligots in contempt.
Nine votes from the 17 members of the committee are needed to cite the Ligots in contempt and place them under the Senate's custody. Once in custody, they won't be released until they cooperate in the investigation, said Blue Ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III after the hearing.
This will be decided in a caucus before session on Monday afternoon.
"Pag invoke kayo nang invoke, ang perception sa inyo, guilty kaagad kayo. Depensahan n'yo naman ang sarili n'yo!" Estrada told the Ligots.
Near the end of the hearing, Estrada still quizzed Mrs. Ligot, who often closed her eyes and paused for a while before answering.
"Mrs. Ligot, sagutin n'yo na po ako," Estrada said.
"Sir, na-contempt na po ako 'di ba?" Mrs. Ligot replied.
"Ah, gusto mo?" Estrada answered. "If that is what she's seeking…I will reiterate my motion to cite her in contempt."
Estrada said the repeated invocation of the right against self-incrimination would set a bad precedent for future Senate inquiries.
"Ginagawa n'yo kaming t*nga dito eh," he said.
Mrs. Ligot replied: "Hindi naman, your honor. Napaka-honorable nga po ninyo eh."