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Belmonte urged to start moves to expel Singson

January 3, 2011 2:51pm
A party-list lawmaker on Monday urged House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to initiate moves to expel from Congress Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson, who is facing a drug-related case in Hong Kong.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, himself facing an ethics complaint at the House of Representatives, said Belmonte should treat the issue with an iron fist to save the chamber’s image.

“It’s the responsibility of the (House) leadership to file charges," said Bello.

Singson, son of Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit" Singson, was arrested at the Chek Lap Kok International Airport in July last year for alleged possession of cocaine and Valium. He is expected to plead guilty on January 26, although it is not clear if it will be for drug trafficking or drug possession.

Bello said he could file the ethics complaint himself, but since he had been charged before the House ethics committee, “people might get the impression that I am trying to deflect attention from my case if I am the one to file charges."

Bello was accused of disorderly behavior and using “unparliamentary remarks" when he delivered a scathing privilege speech against former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in July last year.

Before a House member could be expelled or meted with any disciplinary action, a complaint should be filed against him or her before the ethics committee. The committee members will discuss the complaint and their decision will be presented to the plenary for the consideration of the entire chamber, which can either adopt or reject the committee’s decision.

Official stand

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said the official stand of the House is to await the decision of the Hong Kong court. "Until such a time that he (Singson) is proven guilty, he still enjoys the presumption of innocent," he said.

"We will be waiting for the result before we take any formal action because he can still choose to plead not guilty and fight the case against him. There is still no reason for us to expel him," he added.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga believed it is still "premature" to discuss any disciplinary action against Singson as the case is still pending in court.

"At this stage, I think it would be premature to discuss any disciplinary action by the House against Rep. Ronald Singson. We have to wait for the final outcome of his case," he said in a text message to GMANews.TV.

He noted that the House, through the Speaker’s office, designated Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo to monitor the development of Singson’s case so that the chamber can take appropriate action if necessary.

"We are anticipating a report or recommendation from the Speaker through Rep. Quimbo," Barzaga said.

The chamber, however, has no plans of sending Quimbo to Hong Kong, Gonzales said.
“Why should we send someone there when it cannot do something about it?" Gonzales said. “In fact, nothing came up the last time we did, that is why it’s better for us not to send a representative there whatever ruling the court issues."

Quimbo, for his part, said he had already set up a feedback system at the consular office in Hong Kong, which will inform the House leadership about the ruling of the court or any developments on the case.

On the call of the elder Singson that the Congress should prioritize the case of fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson, prime suspect in a double murder case, instead of focusing on his son, Gonzales said the House has no control over the senator.

"There are two houses of Congress and we don’t have jurisdiction over Ping (Lacson) so we will only be fit to discipline Ronald, our own member," Gonzales said.

"So he (Governor Singson) cannot throw the fault of the Senate when it comes to apprehending Lacson. If he feels that the Senate has shortcoming, that is the problem of the Senate, not ours," he added.

Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay said the older Singson should understand the sentiments of lawmakers.

“Lawmakers, not lawbreakers"

“I already said that he (Ronald) should resign or be expelled. As congressmen, we should be lawmakers and not lawbreakers. It’s the Senate’s call how they should deal with Lacson," she said.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong was one with Magsaysay in letting the Senate make a decision on Lacson’s case, but he said Singson should not be forced to resign.

"Resigning is the discretion of Congressman Singson and whatever congressional action to be taken is for the House of Representatives to decide," said Datumanong, a former Justice secretary.

Akbayan Rep. Arlene “Kaka" Bag-ao said in the face of the imminent disciplinary proceedings, it is incumbent upon Singson to resign as representative.

“From the very start this case has already further tarnished the image of Congress. The time for clinging to one’s position despite facing public scandal and using one’s position to evade accountability should be ended," she said.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said: "As a matter of delicadeza, grounded on the principle that the title of honorable representative has been smeared with his case of drug use, it would be better that he resign from the House of Representatives."

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said Singson should resign if he is found guilty or pleads guilty of drug charges. "This would be the honorable thing to do for the sake of the dignity of the House and the welfare of his constituents," he said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the Ilocos Sur representative cannot be forced to quit his post as "resignation is a voluntary act."

"Having said that, his fate will then be up to the members of the House committee on ethics, subject to the review of the members in plenary," Angara said.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said if Singson feels compelled to resign, "or he wants to shield the House from his personal legal battle, the decision is his to make." - KBK, GMANews.TV
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