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Sotto: What to do with Hontiveros’ speech

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Sotto: What to do with Hontiveros’ speech

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto II is still undecided over which Senate committee should handle the privilege speech of Sen. Risa Hontiveros that targeted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Taking the floor on Monday, Hontiveros asked the upper chamber to refer her privilege speech to the Senate committees on civil service and constitutional amendments. She accused the justice chief, along with former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras, of plotting to bring cases against her.

Hontiveros demanded the resignation of Aguirre even as she sought for her privilege speech to be referred to the two committees since, she said, the infractions involved an unethical conduct of a government official.

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She was also seeking a review of Constitutional provisions on parliamentary immunity.

But Sotto has yet to refer the matter to the two committees.

Question over jurisdiction

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Sotto said that the Senate rules committee, which he chairs, still needed to resolve issues about jurisdiction on Wednesday.

According to Sotto, Hontiveros may have wanted the two committees to conduct the inquiry because they are chaired by her fellow members of the minority bloc — Sens. Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan.

Sotto, however, was quick to clarify that he was not “aspersing (the) motives” of Hontiveros but noted that the Senate rules committee had yet to decide on the proper committees that should handle the inquiry.

‘Issue of accountability’

Sotto noted that Hontiveros’ speech was actually an “issue of accountability of a public official” and could fall within the ambit of the Senate blue ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon.

Since the official in question is a justice secretary, the secondary committee could also be the justice committee, which also happens to be chaired by Gordon, said Sotto.

“We have to study and find a middle ground,” Sotto said.

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The minority bloc in the Senate has backed Hontiveros’ call for Aguirre’s resignation, saying the latter’s actions “lack a competence for a man who holds the highest office on justice.”

“His actions clearly violate the norms of conduct for public officials under the law,” said a joint statement released by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Pangilinan, Trillanes, Leila de Lima and Bam Aquino.

“The Filipinos deserve better than a Cabinet official who resorts to spreading lies, sowing intrigue and to name-calling,” they said.

In her speech on Monday, Hontiveros showed a picture of Aguirre while he was staring at his phone during the Sept. 5 hearing of the Senate into the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

What caught the ire of Hontiveros was an alleged exchange of text messages between Aguirre and “Cong. (Congressman) Jing.” Hontiveros identified “Jing” as Paras, now a member of the pro-Duterte Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

The text messages, which were captured by an unidentified photographer, showed Aguirre asking the former lawmaker to bring cases against Hontiveros.

Replying to Paras, Aguirre said: “That’s why let us expedite your cases against her.”

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TAGS: Jacinto Paras, Risa Hontiveros, Vicente Sotto III, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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