Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Philippine House hearing on complaint reset; minority cries harassment, Roilo Golez blog

House hearing on complaint reset; minority cries harassment

By Maila AgerINQ7.netLast updated 05:11pm (Mla time) 09/19/2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(UPDATE) DESPITE an appeal by opposition lawmakers, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's allies in the House of Representatives succeeded in having the hearing on an expulsion case filed against a lawmaker reset to next month.
House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero said the move to reset the hearing was an indication that the case was weak and was only meant to harass Cayetano and the opposition.
Upon the motion of Northern Samar Representative Harlin Abayon, the committee on ethics tasked to hear the complaint against Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano was set for October 3.
Filed by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and supported by his son and Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo and brother and Negros Occidental Representative Ignacio Arroyo, the complaint stemmed from allegations by Cayetano that the Arroyos kept a multimillion-dollar bank account in Germany.
The First Gentleman has denied Cayetano’s claim.
Abayon's motion was prompted by a query from CIBAC Representative Joel Villanueva, an opposition member, on why ex-officio members of the committee had not been furnished a copy of the complaint ahead of the hearing.
Abayon, who also received a copy only during the hearing, then moved for its postponement.
“With that revelation, Mr. Chairman, and because according to the honorable Villanueva, he has just received the complaint and he is not ready, I think the best thing that we have to do here is to postpone this hearing so that the members will be able to study,” Abayon said.
“If that is the case, I therefore move that we might as well defer this so that in the next hearing Mr. chairman, we'll have an intelligent discussion,” Abayon said.
But Escudero clarified that Villanueva was only raising a parliamentary inquiry and not asking for a postponement.
Villanueva also clarified that he was ready to participate in the deliberations.
“We'd like to make of record that the Honorable Villanueva expressed his readiness to participate in this afternoon's proceeding and also in behalf of the minority, we'd like to manifest our readiness to participate and be part of this committee deliberation,” Escudero said.
Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez fears that the delay of the proceeding might be used by the complainants to amend the complaint.
“I think we should avoid the question where we have a complaint that maybe subject to a continuing amendment,” Golez said.
“We don't want a situation where when we resume, we’ll be confronted with a new complaint,” he said.
But Abayon and Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan pointed out that the rules of the committee clearly provided for an amendment to the complaint at any stage until an answer was filed.
Bohol Representative Roberto Cajes, the committee chairman, ruled in favor of Abayon and Domogan's argument.
But if rules were to be followed, Escudero said the complainants should also be present during the hearing.
He pointed out that under the rules of court, the same rules that the committee was using, “interest must be expressed by the complainants with respect to whatever case they are filing.”
But Cajes said the complainants and the respondent were not yet required to attend at this stage of the proceeding.
Nonetheless, Escudero said he was convinced that the case against Cayetano was weak that was why the President's allies were delaying the proceedings.
“Pagpapakita na hindi sila handa siguro, na parang hilaw yung complaint na sinampa dahil pinag-uusapan nila ang posibilidad ng amendment [This goes to show that maybe they are not ready, that the complaint that has been filed was half-baked because they are still discussing the possibility of amending it],” Escudero said after the hearing.
“Lahat ng ito ay panggigipit lang. Pang-uurot sa opposition, minority at kay congressman Cayetano. Wala naman talagang basehan ang kaso [All of these only prove harassment against the opposition, minority, and Cayetano],” Escudero said.
Golez said the deferment of the hearing was also puzzling.
“We are ready to discuss now. Why are they not? Is there a hidden agenda? Did they find the complaint weak or defective and need to rework it?” he asked.

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