Matibag says sorry but says act was 'righteous indignation'
MANILA— Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday said PDP-Laban Secretary-General Melvin Matibag will not be allowed to attend the ongoing budget hearings in the Senate until he is "able to behave in a professional manner."
This developed after Matibag, who is the president of the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), was removed from the Senate Subcommittee on Finance's budget hearing Thursday after raising his voice to lawmakers during the session.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who leads the PDP-Laban faction backed by Duterte, Gatchalian reminded him, Matibag and the resource persons in the agency to "conduct themselves with courtesy" and respect the Senate.
Cusi was present in the hearing and had apologized to the lawmakers for the incident.
"Any abusive, offensive, or otherwise improper speech or behavior will not be tolerated," said Gatchalian, the subcommittee's chairman.
"As such, until Atty. Matibag is able to behave in a professional manner, I am constrained to prohibit his attendance to the remaining hearings of the Committee on Finance," he said.
The Senate subcommittee had questioned Matibag for his alleged connections with the EIMOP, which Sen. Manny Pacquiao said was behind the operations of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) supposedly responsible for "hidden charges" when it comes to electricity bills.
Pacquiao and Matibag, officials of rival PDP-Laban factions, are currently locked in a powerplay for the party's control ahead of the upcoming national elections.
Matibag apologized to the panel, but said his act was "righteous indignation" for the "demolition job" against him.
In a letter, he said he did not intend to disrespect the Senate, most especially Gatchalian.
"The issues being raised by [Sen. Manny Pacquiao] against me are the same materials used in the demolition job against me in the House of Representatives in 2019," the official explained to Gatchalian in a letter.
"My actions were a righteous indignation on my part as I strongly felt that there was an abuse of legislative privilege by Sen. Pacquiao," he added.
MATIBAG TO PACQUIAO: PROVE YOUR ALLEGATIONS
Earlier in the day, Matibag challenged Pacquiao to prove his allegations and concretize his claims about his connections to EIMOP.
“I challenge him, magtalastasan kami, if he can prove that I have in any way may kinalaman, I will resign as TransCo president. Pero kung wala, magretiro na rin ho siguro siya sa pulitika hindi lang sa boxing (but if not, he should retire from politics, not only from boxing),” said Matibag.
He also reiterated that he does not have any influence over firms discussed during the hearing.
“I don’t have the power of control, power of anything over PEMC (Philippine Electricity Market Corporation) and IEMOP, those are private corporations. Doon pumasok sa akin ano dahilan nito (That's when it hit me, what is the reason behind this)? Very clear— politics,” said Matibag in an interview on TeleRadyo.
“Wala pong kinalaman ang TransCo d'yan. Kapag may kinalaman ang TransCo at si Atty. Matibag d'yan sa PEMC, IEMOP na 'yan other than doon sa pagiging nominating incorporator ng wife ko, I will relinquish my office po,” said Matibag.
(TransCo has nothing to do with that. If they find TransCo or my involvement in the PEMC, IEMOP other than my wife being a nominating incorporator, I will relinquish my office.)
Matibag admitted that his wife, Laguna Board Member Ann Matibag, was one of the incorporators of IEMOP and was even designated as treasurer. But after two months of its incorporation, he said his wife resigned.
“Nung nag-operate na 'yung IEMOP, nung tumakbo na 'yung IEMOP, nung may policy na, nung umaandar na she is no longer part of that. Kaya po nangyari 'yun because she is an employee of PEMC nung in-incoporate 'yun IEMOP kasi po 'yung IEMOP nanggaling po sa PEMC,” he said.
(She is no longer part of that when IEMOP started operating. She was still an employee of PEMC when they incorporated IEMOP because IEMOP came from PEMC.)
His wife, he said, also resigned from PEMC when she became a provincial board member.
After he was kicked out of Thursday's hearing, Matibag issued a statement apologizing to the public for his temperament and said he respects the Senate.
The Comelec has yet to resolve the factions' battle for control of PDP-Laban.