Drilon to clear subpoena issue with Ombudsman a second time
MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Franklin Drilon has again resisted signing the subpoena to compel Janet Lim Napoles, the main suspect in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, to give testimony to the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Drilon said he would again seek the opinion of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, this time apparently her comment on jurisprudence cited by Senate blue ribbon committee chair Sen. Teofisto Guingona III that gives the Senate the power to summon Napoles.
Drilon earlier refused to sign Guingona’s subpoena for Napoles’ testimony after Morales—in an opinon Drilon earlier sought—indicated that Napoles’ appearance at the blue ribbon committee inquiry would prejudice the Ombudsman’s proceedings in the plunder case against her.
Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Edgar Valdes are facing plunder charges before the Ombudsman in connection with the scam that reportedly turned billions of pesos of the Priority Development Assistance Fund into fat kickbacks.
“May we respectfully refer to your office for comment on the attached letter of Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, seeking the reconsideration of our earlier decision not to approve a subpoena for Janet Lim-Napoles for her to appear before the Senate Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon Committee),” Drilon said in his letter to Morales on Thursday.
“Please be informed that we have deferred any action on the aforementioned request on account of your advice in your letter dated 23 September 2013, wherein you expressed the opinion that compelling Mrs. Napoles to testify before the committee, at this time, would not be advisable,” Drilon said.
Guingona last week wrote Drilon asking the Senate President to reconsider his decision, based on Morales’ opinion, to defer the signing of the blue ribbon committee’s subpoena for Napoles.
In his letter to Drilon, Guingona cited Supreme Court decisions related to the power of the Senate to summon resource persons.
These included Romero v Chavez that said “[ongoing] judicial proceedings do not preclude congressional hearings in aid of legislation” and Senate blue ribbon committee v Majaducon and Flaviano that ruled that a regional trial court “had no authority to prohibit the committee from requiring a respondent to appear and testify before it.”
Guingona also cited the case of Sabio v Gordon that said “a mere provision of law cannot pose a limitation on the broad power of Congress, in the absence of any constitutional basis.”
“Government officials and even whistle-blowers have been summoned pursuant to this investigation,” Guingona said in his letter to Drilon.
“No logical and legal reasons exist (to justify the) caution, timing and prudence that are now being used to prevent Janet Lim-Napoles from attending the hearings of the Senate blue ribbon committee,” Guingona added.
Drilon, in a statement on Saturday, said the opinion of the Ombudsman on the question of whether or not Napoles could appear before the blue ribbon committee must not be underestimated and neglected.
“What is at stake here is the ability of the Office of the Ombudsman to prosecute the PDAF misuse cases against Napoles with dispatch and without delay. This is the principal goal of our justice system,” Drilon said.
He added that “prudence and caution” guided his decision not to sign the subpoena for Napoles.
“It was out of prudence and caution that I decided to defer to the advice and recommendation of Ombudsman Morales not to require, at this time, Napoles’ appearance before the Senate blue ribbon committee,” Drilon said.
“While my decision appears unpopular to the media and a public eager to see Napoles grilled by the blue ribbon committee, I have decided on the side of caution. I would rather err on the side of prudence,” he added.
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