Friday, September 14, 2012

Philippine Senate Investigates Rico Puno

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago pushed through on Friday a Senate probe on resigned Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico E. Puno after the latter himself showed up and a quorum was declared with the presence of Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

Santiago opened the probe at 10:44 a.m. by explaining the validity of the decision of her committee on constitutional amendments, revision of laws to conduct the inquiry even with the absence of a resolution or privilege speech which some of her fellow senators have been requiring from her.

The feisty senator said Section 17 of the Senate Rules of Procedures allow a committee which initiates to call an investigation in aid of legislation.

Santiago read Section 17 which states: "The transmittal of matters to the committees 'may' be done with instructions through a motion by a majority of the senators present."

"The use of the word 'may' indicates permission, while the use of the word 'shall' or 'will' indicates compulsion. Therefore, the use of the word 'may' indicates that another method may be used, such as simple assumption of jurisdiction by the committee, instead of referral by the plenary session," she explained.

Further, Santiago said under the rules of procedures governing inquiries in aid of legislation, "Section 2 says inquires may be initiated by the Senate or any of its committees if the matter is within its competence."

"This provision uses the word 'or', meaning that the inquiry maybe initiated by resolution in the Senate or on its own by any of the competent committees," Santiago said.

"We are here to conduct investigation in aid of legislation and not to explain the Senate rules of procedures. Do I have to teach them about our rules in the Senate?," Santiago said, referring to her colleagues who questioned the process of conducting the inquiry.

On Thursday night, Santiago said out of the 11 members of her committee, nobody confirmed attendance tothehearing, but on Friday morning, Cayetano and Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. showed up, prompting Santiago to declare a quorum.

After allowing Cayetano to state his opening statement, Cayetano proceeded with the inquiry by focusing on the issue of illegal number games, including "jueteng."

But before giving the floor to anti-illegal gambling crusader Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Santiago allowed Puno to read his opening statement where he denied all the accusations, including reports that he attempted to raid the Quezon City office of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo.

"My long silence was not a sign of my guilt. All these (accusations) are all lies and that's why I'm here," Puno, who resigned as DILG undersecretary three days ago, said.

Puno told the committee that he has instruction to secure and not raid the public documents which, he said. are inside Robredo's condominium.

Puno said his detractors have no proof on the allegations hurled against him.

After Puno's opening statement, Cruz told the committee that not only jueteng but 30 other forms of illegal gambling still exist up to present.

Cruz said that the problem of illegal gambling is no longer at the level of legislation but with the level of the effort that national and local government to stop them.

Aside from Cruz and Puno, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome showed up.

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