September 13, 2012
PUNO PROBE IN PERIL
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, yesterday (Thursday, September 13) aired fears that the investigation of resigned DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno might be "sabotaged" for lack of quorum, and for the absence of Puno himself.
Santiago said that when her staff contacted the 11 members of her committee, not a single senator confirmed his attendance, and many gave as an excuse that they would be out of town.
The Senate Rules require that there should be at least two senators present to form a quorum at a committee hearing.
In addition, Santiago said that while many of the resource persons invited have already confirmed their attendance, Puno, who is the target of the probe himself, has not yet confirmed that he will attend.
A few days ago, Puno reportedly told media that he had not yet received his invitation, but Santiago's staff said that all invitations were sent last Monday, September 10.
The invitation specifically warns that if the committee deems as necessary the testimony of the resource person, if he is absent, then the committee will issue a subpoena, which is compulsory.
Santiago told media that if there is no quorum today (Friday, September 14) this can only mean that the senators have been ordered by Malacañang to stay away.
"If it happens, such a deliberate boycott will indicate that even my fellow senator who are members of my committee do not support my initiative. I will certainly raise a protest, but I'm thinking at the moment of what form my protest will take," Santiago said.
Santiago also said that if the committee decides to issue a subpoena to Puno, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will still have to sign the subpoena.
"If the Senate President refuses to sign he subpoena, in effect he will disapprove the committee recommendation, which is not normal," she said.
Santiago said that if Puno is absent, "then it will show that he is a craven coward, that all charges against him are probably true, and that he is thumbing his nose at the Filipino public."
Santiago said that even if Puno will claim that he does not want to answer questions because he might incriminate himself, that is no excuse for being absent.
"He has to be present and invoke the privilege for every question. That is not a ground for an omnibus refusal to answer all questions or to be absent," she said.
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