Miriam: PNoy prevented Cabinet officials from attending Senate probe
(Updated 4:50 p.m.) Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Friday accused President Benigno Auqino III of preventing Cabinet officials from attending the chamber's investigation on resigned Undersecretarty Rico Puno.
"There is something that bothers me. It appears to me that the President of the Phililippines has ordered his Cabinet not to attend this heairng," Santiago said at the start of the day's hearing.
She issued the statement after no Cabinet official attended the probe being conducted by Santiago's committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.
The Cabinet members invited by the committe were Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, Environment Sec. Ramon Paje, Interior Sec. Mar Roxas and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa. Last Thursday, De Lima said she was skipping the proceedings because she had yet to get an approval from Aquino.
As of posting time, GMA News Online was still trying to reach Malacañang for its comment.
Puno and National Police chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome were among the personalities who attended the hearing.
Santiago earlier said the probe will discuss whether an undersecretary should have his own area of responsibility within the DILG.
She said she also wants to look into the allegations that Puno and several police officers tried to enter the condominium unit of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo a day after Robredo died in a plane crash in Masbate last month.
Question over jurisdiction
During the hearing, Santiago read a letter allegedly from Ochoa saying the President is always willing to "cooperate" with the Senate.
However, Ochoa told her that an "urgent" meeting of the security, justice, and peace Cabinet cluster had already been set at the same time as the Senate probe.
She said the same letter questioned her panel's jurisdiction over the issue because she did not file a resolution.
The letter likewise asked why she did not send them copies of the questions that will be asked to the Cabinet officials.
"In the interest of providing your with input on the issues to be raised in the committee hearings, we would be grateful if the committee could enlighten us on the following; factual antecedents surrounding the subject matter of the inquiry; individual questions that may be raised to the Cabinet secretaries; specific provisions of the laws cited that directly relate to the inquiry; and the intended objectives of the inquiry," said the letter dated September 13.
Santiago took offense.
"Kung sinuman ang abogado na nag-draft ng sulat na ito dapat patalsikin ni President Aquino dahil duling. Baka may iba pang infirmities yun di lang natin alam," she said.
She explained that the one who wrote the letter probably mistook legislative inquiries with Question Hour, where questions must be given to the resource persons.
"Suntukin na lang kaya yung abogado [na nagsulat ng letter] for having low IQ... nakakainsulto eh," she said.
"Abogada kaya nagsulat nito? Ipa-disbar ko kaya ito?" she added.
She likewise said that under the Senate rules, inquiries may be initiated by the Senate or any of its committees "if the matter is within its competence."
This, she said, means inquiries may be initiated through a resolution in the Senate or on its own by any of the "competent committees."
"Yun ang problema kapag illiterate, hindi nagbabasa. Ako pa dapat magsagot ng mga ito? Hindi ba sila marunong magbasa? I don't want to educate these people, I'm not being paid. Ayoko ko nga magturo sa UP College of Law, ito pang mga ito?" she said.
"Kaya nag-aksaya lang ako ng buhay ko pansinin ko pa itong mga itong mga...the lowest creatures on [the] food chain," she added. — RSJ, GMA News