Colmenares defends Tinio vs possible ethics complaint

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


BAYAN Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares defended ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio against threats of a possible ethics complaint to be filed against him by a group of party-list lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Colmenares said Tinio who is his colleague in the Makabayan bloc did not violate the Anti-Wiretapping Act for using recordings of a supposed executive session between the lawmakers and some members of the executive branch as part of their evidence in the fourth impeachment complaint they filed against President Benigno Aquino III last Monday.

The recordings contain the alleged admission by some of Aquino's officials that congressional pork still exists despite the high court's ruling on Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

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The pieces of evidence include audio recording of the "executive session" among the members of the House committee on appropriations and officials, such as Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan and Health Undersecretary Janette Garin.

Colmenares said that hearings or briefings are excluded from the coverage of the Anti-Wiretapping Act.

"Representative Tinio did not violate the Wiretapping Law because the hearings he recorded were conducted by public officials discussing the allocation of public funds in a public venue," he said.

He explained that the law only pertains to a private conversation and the claim that an executive session "is akin to a private conversation is bereft of any legal basis."

"Under Section 7 of the rules of the House on inquiries in aid of legislation, an executive session is limited to cases that involve threats to national security. There is no way that a hearing on the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) scholarships can threaten national security. Additionally, executive sessions cannot be used to commit or cover up a crime," Colmenares said.

The voice recording, which served as basis in the fourth impeachment, aims to prove that the pork barrel system continues under the present national budget.

Colmenares said the Aquino administration is just using the same dirty tricks of his predecessor, former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, by threatening those who expose the massive electoral fraud during the 2004 presidential polls.

"President Arroyo used the same tactic of threatening those who exposed the electoral fraud in 2004 with the Anti-Wiretapping Law. What matters is the people support Representative Tinio for exposing [the hidden] Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2014 budget because pork barrel stole billions of public funds that could have gone to social services for the people," the Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader said.

Ako Bicol party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe earlier said that the Party-list Coalition Foundation in the House of Representatives might spearhead the filing of an ethics complaint against Tinio for recording a supposed executive session between lawmakers and Cabinet members.

Batocabe said that contents of an executive session are prohibited to be revealed unless permitted by the House leadership. (Sunnex)

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