House bloc back Guingona on Napoles’ appearance before Senate panel-A A +A
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
MEMBERS of the House minority bloc on Wednesday threw their support to Senator Teofisto Guingona III's order requiring whistleblowers and the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam to appear before the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
1-BAP party-list Representative Silvestre Bello III, a former Justice Secretary, said the Senate should not be deprived of the testimony of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the misuse of priority development assistance fund (PDAF), just because a case is filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman.
"I agree with the position of Senator Guingona that the mere fact that Ms. Napoles is a respondent in a plunder case pending preliminary investigation before the Ombudsman does not deprive the Senate specifically the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee from inviting her for questioning to shed light on the so-called pork barrel scam," Bello said.
Bello explained that the Senate panel hearing will not affect the Ombudsman's investigation on the plunder charges filed against Napoles and 37 others as the Senate probe is being conducted in aid of legislation.
After Justice Secretary Leila de Lima appeared before the Senate hearing Wednesday without the whistleblowers she promised to present before the members of the panel, Guingona issued a subpoena ordering her to produce them before the committee in the next hearing.
The subpoena, however, needs the signature of Senate President Franklin Drilon to take effect.
In a statement, Drilon said she defers to the advice of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales not to require the appearance of Napoles before the Senate committee.
"While my decision appears unpopular to media and a public eager to see Napoles grilled by the Blue Ribbon Committee, I have decided on the side of caution. I would rather err on the side of prudence," Drilon said.
Bello pointed out, however, that public opinion will not have any weight in the preliminary investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman.
"In the case of the Ombudsman, public opinion does not have any weight kasi yung ebidensiya na hinahawakan na pinresenta sa Ombudsman yun ang pagbabasehan ng Ombudsman to determine whether there is probable cause against the respondents or not," he explained.
Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, a lawyer and a member of the House opposition bloc, said Drilon set a dangerous precedent.
"Can you imagine that a mere advice from the Office of the Ombudsman can curtail the powers of the Senate to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation? The Senate and Congress [House of Representatives] cannot interfere with the probe being done by the Ombudsman in the same way that the Ombudsman cannot interfere with the Congressional probe," he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)