Senate Blue Ribbon to send invitation to Binay this week
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will formally invite this week Vice President Jejomar Binay to attend its hearing on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall II Parking Building, but its members have yet to agree on the exact date.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III said on Tuesday, October 28, that members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which he chairs, will still have to agree on the date when Vice President would be asked to appear before the panel on corruption allegations against him raised at its subcommittee’s probe on the controversy.
"We are going to issue the invitation within this week. We just have to confer kung anong date available 'yung mga senators (what date the senators would be available to hold the hearing)," Guingona told reporters after he presiding a hearing on the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC).
He said setting the invitation date can be done over phone conversations with the other members of the mother committee.
Asked if the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will take over the probe from its subcommittee, Guingona admitted that this will have to be clarified.
"We’re not clear about that. It's like this: the mother committee will invite the Vice President so that he can give his side. Right now I just want to take it step by step," Guingona said.
While Guingona said he upholds the powers of the subcommittee, the decision to invite Binay to the mother committee is meant to prevent a possible clash between the Senate, the Office of the President, and the Supreme Court – where the Binays earlier threatened to raise their jurisdictional question.
"The subcommittee has all the powers of the mother committee. Let it be that way. My only reason for stepping in is to avoid the clash of institutions, so that we can make sure that everything, as much as possible, can go on smoothly," he said.
On Thursday, October 30, the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee will resume its hearings on the controversial building, which has branched out into other corruption allegations against the Vice President, including ownership of a 350-hectare farm. (IN PHOTOS: The 'hacienda' that Antonio Tiu says he owns)
Congress will take another break for All Saint's Day, and will resume session on November 17. Asked if a hearing may be called during the break, Guingona said it will depend on the availability of senators.
He also said that based on the statement of the Binay camp, Binay may still opt to skip a hearing, even upon the invitation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Avoiding a clash of institutions
At the start of the Senate subcommittee hearing on October 22, Guingona said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee was yielding to the Binay camp's request that should the Vice President appear before the Senate, he would only do so before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee and not its subcommittee, which is conducting the probe.
The Vice President's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, had earlier quesioned the jurisdiction of the subcommittee to conduct the probe, but this was dismissed for "lack of merit."
Both face plunder charges over the Makati building, which was cited as the basis for the Senate probe.
Trillanes drops motion vs Hilmarc's engineers
Meanwhile, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee was supposed to meet on Tuesday, to discuss the motion of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to hold in contempt two engineers of Hilmarc's Construction Company – the builder of the Makati City Hall II Parking Building – for their absence in the hearings.
It was cancelled after Trillanes dropped his motion.
"The two Hilmarc's executives were recommended to be cited for contempt for ignoring the subpoenas. But their attendance last hearing effectively remedied that situation. Hence, the contempt recommendation was withdrawn," said Trillanes. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com