Senators seek resolution vs 'harassment suits' of resource persons in panel hearing

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 04 2021 09:54 PM

MANILA - Senators on Thursday said they want to pass a resolution that would "assail" the harassment suits filed against the resource persons testifying in their probe on the supposed mismanagement of COVID-19 response funds. 

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee resource person Mon Abrea, a tax expert, said cases have been filed against him in the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for his participation in the marathon hearings.

Abrea has been giving his insights on the tax cases during the span of the hearings, and explained financial statements of the firms involved in the allegedly anomalous transactions. 

"Nakatanggap po tayo ng insinuations and unsolicited advice na mag-withdraw po sa Senate hearing at hindi rin naman tayo nakakukuha ng suporta mula sa asosasyon ng CPAs," Abrea said. 

"Ako po ang nakatanggap ng sulat sa PRC at may nagrereklamo po para ma-revoke ang aking PRC license. Kung sakali po akong mawawala, hindi po ako nagpa-bribe, mayroon lang po talagang mga tao na gusto akong i-discredit," he added. 

This is why senators Francis Pangilinan and Richard Gordon wanted a resolution expressing their opposition to the harassment. 

Pangilinan said the resolution would also urge the PRC to dismiss the complaint against Abrea, who is being intimidated.

"If this is true and this is in connection with his testimonies here in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, I would seek the support of the Senate that we file a Senate resolution assailing such harassment," the senator explained. 

"[This would also] dismiss or avoid or prevent any such harassment suits on the basis precisely of his involvement in providing us guidance as to better understand the ins and outs of the accounting and the financial statements of Pharmally." 

Gordon, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's chairman, criticized the people behind the issue. 

A letter from the Senate, he said, is important to be given to the commission so the matter could be resolved immediately. 

"No government should try and muffle a decent individual who is just trying to explain and try to harass him into submission and not cooperate," he said.

MEANT TO 'SOW FEAR'

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee drew President Rodrigo Duterte's ire after it launched a probe into the allegedly anomalous pandemic deals. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros this week was sued by a Pharmally employee before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged perjury and sedition after a witness they earlier interviewed recanted his testimonies against the embattled firm. 

"Malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw ang hawak namin na ebidensya na ang witness ang unang lumapit sa amin na may ibabahagi tungkol sa Pharmally," the lawmaker said. 

"Taliwas sa kanyang sinasabi ngayon na medical assistance ang kanyang pakay at pinilit namin siya magsinungaling kapalit ng medical assistance."

Duterte in October, meanwhile, released a memorandum order prohibiting Cabinet secretaries and executive officials and employees from attending the Senate panel's investigations.

The President also accused the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of blatant disrespect for resource persons.

All these, Pangilinan said, are meant to "sow fear." 

"The whole point of this harassment is so that the people will not stand up and speak out. It is to intimidate, to sow fear, it is to prevent us from uncovering the truth. and so we should stand by one another to our desire to get to the truth," he said. 

The next committee hearing is scheduled on Nov. 25. 

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