With Pope gone, Senate goes back to work
MANILA, Philippines–After a monthlong break, it’s back to business in the Senate, with two inquiries on alleged irregularities involving public funds on top of the week’s agenda.
The blue ribbon subcommittee is set to resume its hearing on Jan. 22 on the allegations of corruption against Vice President Jejomar Binay during his term as Makati City mayor.
On the same day, the committee on social justice, welfare and rural development is scheduled to hold its first hearing on alleged irregularities in the administration’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which has a budget of more than P60 billion this year.
Call for investigation
Heading the committee is Sen. Nancy Binay, the Vice President’s daughter.
The senator had said the hearing was prompted by a resolution filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago calling for an investigation into the Commission on Audit’s findings of irregularities involving the fund which provides cash assistance to the poor.
Binay said the CCT hearing was not necessarily intended to stop the project, but to determine how it could be more efficiently implemented.
The blue ribbon subcommittee may also hear new testimony on the allegations against the Vice President.
Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said a new issue concerning Vice President Binay was to be discussed at the next subcommittee hearing, and there were four to five more hearings in the offing.
The hearings on the Makati issues had brought out allegations by former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado that the elder Binay had received kickbacks from city projects and had used dummies to hide his wealth.
The Binay camp has denied the allegations and has been critical of the long-running hearings, which it described as farcical and intended to destroy the Vice President’s popularity among voters.
In the coming weeks, the Senate is also expected to tackle the draft Bangsamoro basic law, which would create a new autonomous region in Mindanao and flesh out a historic peace agreement between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The Bangsamoro basic law, which is being handled by the committee on local government, is one of the priority measures of Congress in the first quarter of the year.
The Senate committee on constitutional amendments will hold parallel hearings on the measure to check if it is in conflict with the fundamental law of the land which is the Constitution.
Meanwhile, two senators called on Filipinos to continue living Pope Francis’ messages, which he delivered during his five-day visit.
Sen. Bam Aquino said that putting the Pontiff’s words into action would be the best gift the people could give him.
Among the Pope’s messages was an exhortation to shun all forms of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor. He also said that political leaders must have honesty, integrity and a commitment to the common good.
“The Pope’s visit must inspire us to eradicate graft and corruption in government. And this needs everyone’s cooperation, vigilance and faith to make the reforms happen,” Aquino said in a statement on Monday.
Sen. Loren Legarda said she hoped citizens would heed the Pope’s concern for the environment. She expressed disappointment that many who attended his concluding Mass at Rizal Park failed to keep the area free of trash.
“I don’t think it is too hard to find a wastebasket or take the trash back home to dispose of it properly. These simple acts should be part of our attitude and lifestyle if we seriously take our responsibility as stewards of the environment,” she said in a statement.
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