I can also play rough, says senator
BY JP LOPEZ
The last session is on Thursday as Congress will be on break from September 22 to October 7.
“Tit for tat. If they snub my hearing, I will snub their session,” she said yesterday.
Santiago over the weekend said members of her committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws had been swayed by Malacañang to stay away from the hearing on resigned interior undersecretary Rico Puno and issues surrounding him like the alleged anomalous guns contract for the PNP, jueteng, and illegal logging. Only two of the 11 committee members showed up.
She particularly got irked after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a committee member, said they would not attend the hearing and instead study the legal implications of holding a hearing without plenary approval.
Lacson and Enrile had earlier said they would have to study if a committee could hold a hearing without a privilege speech or a resolution referred by the plenary to the committee.
Santiago said it was obvious there was a conspiracy between the Cabinet and some senators, because in the excuse letter sent by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., he raised exactly the same questions raised by Lacson and Enrile about the legality of the committee hearing.
“The Malacañang letter raises the issue of a lack of resolution passed by the plenary session. This is exactly the same issue raised by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Panfilo Lacson. I have already pointed out, for their education, that several provisions in the Senate Rules and the Senate rules concerning inquiries in aid of legislation strongly imply that there is no need for a formal resolution, if the committee has competent jurisdiction,” she said.
Santiago said her committee has jurisdiction over “revision of laws.”
“My opponents appear to be intellectually challenged. The requirement for prior submission of questions applies only to the Question Hour under the Constitution. It does not apply to the committee hearings,” she said.
Last Sunday, Santiago said she would attend only the Commission on Appointments hearing scheduled on Wednesday to block the confirmation of Manuel Roxas II as interior secretary, Ramon Paje for environment, and Leila de Lima as justice secretary.
“If a Cabinet member who snubs my hearing is presented for confirmation this Wednesday, I will attend the confirmation hearing to cast a veto, to fulfill my promise that I shall veto all cabinet members who were invited, but snubbed me,” she has said.
Paje and De Lima were summoned to the hearing but did not attend.
Enrile explained he was not able to attend the hearing because he had a prior speaking engagement.
“I don’t think that there was any intention to boycott. It’s simply that there were conflicts of schedule,” he said.
On Santiago’s boycott plan, he said, “Well, if she wants to be absent, that’s her prerogative. Di ba nag-aabsent siya dahil may sakit siya?”
President Aquino shrugged off Santiago’s warning about blocking the confirmation of Cabinet members.
He said Malacañang was merely abiding by the law which requires Congress to submit topics, questions, purpose of congressional probes before Malacañang appointees are allowed to attend hearings.
He pointed to Article VI, Section 22 which he said states that “the heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments.”
“Kapag pinatawag po ninyo iyung alter ego ko, may karapatan naman po sigurong malaman iyung itatanong para makapaghanda at hindi dumating doon at sabihin ‘I don’t know’, hindi ba? Parang kung gusto niyo ng resource person, bigyan naman natin ng pagkakataon na makapaghanda, maibigay iyung mga tugon sa iyong mga katanungan,” he added. – With Jocelyn Montemayor