Settle panel chairmanships before probes–Jinggoy Estrada



Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada: Settle chairmanships INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Don’t expect the next batch of senators to roll up their sleeves and begin a new round of investigations of current controversial issues immediately after Monday’s State of the Nation Address by President Aquino, a senator warned Sunday.

Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada said the chamber’s new leadership must first resolve committee assignments before the much-awaited probes could start.

Only after the chairs of all the committees are named could the Senate begin investigating the two Metro Manila water concessionaires and their alleged passing on to consumers of the payment of their income taxes and the alleged scam in the P10-billion disbursement of the pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of certain members of Congress that ended up in private pockets over the last decade.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Estrada indicated that Sen. Franklin Drilon, who is touted to be the next Senate President, may not have fully resolved the distribution of 35 regular committees even as he (Estrada) and at least five other senators expected to form the new Senate minority would seek an all-senators caucus to discuss committee assignments.

“Even if there are resolutions calling for investigations, I don’t think we can start them within the week since the committee assignments are not yet complete (hindi pa sigurado),” Estrada said.

He said he and the other senators in the new minority had indicated their committee preferences to Drilon.

“Unless we constitute the committees, there would be no hearings set,” he added.

Sen. Francis Escudero has filed a resolution calling for a “full-blown investigation” by the Senate blue ribbon committee into the alleged misuse of their pork barrel by five senators named in the P10-billion scandal—Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan.

Sen. Ralph Recto, meanwhile, has filed a resolution directing the public services committee to investigate the alleged charging of their corporate income tax to consumers by water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water.

Estrada as acting Senate President will preside over Monday’s 10 a.m. opening session where the new batch of newly elected senators will take their oath and the senators will pick a new leader.

Drilon is considered a shoo-in for Senate President, Recto to become Senate President Pro Tempore, and erstwhile minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano to become Majority Floor Leader.

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