Senate resumes sessions with Makati graft, CCT probes as top agenda
MANILA, Philippines – Congress is back in action on Tuesday (Jan. 20) after a month-long break, and on its agenda this week are two inquiries on alleged irregularities involving public funds.
The Senate’s Blue Ribbon subcommittee is scheduled to resume its hearings on Thursday, January 22, on alleged corruption in Makati City under the mayoral leadership of now Vice President Jejomar Binay.
On the same day, another Senate panel, the social justice, welfare and rural development committee, is scheduled to hold its first hearing on alleged irregularities involving the administration’s conditional cash transfer program, which has a budget of more than P60 billion in 2015.
Chairing the committee is Sen. Nancy Binay, the vice president’s daughter.
Senator Binay earlier said the hearing was prompted by resolutions filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, which sought an inquiry on the Commission on Audit’s findings of irregularities involving the fund used to provide cash assistance to the poor.
Senator Binay also said that the CCT hearing would not want to see the project halted but it would like to determine how it could be more efficiently implemented.
The Blue Ribbon subcommittee, on the other hand, may hear new testimonies on the alleged schemes of Binay when he led one of richest cities in the country.
Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said a new issue concerning Binay would be discussed in the next subcommittee hearing, and added that there would be at least four to five more hearings in the offing.
The hearings on the Makati issues had heard allegations from former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado that Binay supposedly received kickbacks from city projects and 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 proceedings that were intended to bring down the vice president’s popularity among voters.
In the coming weeks, the Senate is also expected to tackle and approve the draft of the Bangsamoro basic law, which would create a new autonomous region in Mindanao and give flesh to a historic peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
This is one of the priority measures of Congress in the first quarter of the year and is handled by the committee on local government. The Senate’s committee on constitutional amendments will also hold parallel hearings on the measure to check if it conflicts with the fundamental law of the land.
Meanwhile, two senators called on Filipinos to continue living Pope Francis’ messages that he delivered during his five-day stay in the country.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino said putting the pontiff’s words into action would be the best gift they could give to him.
Among the pope’s messages was an exhortation to everyone to shun all forms of corruption, which has diverted resources from the poor. Francis also said political leaders must have honesty, integrity and 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.
Francis also called for compassion and solidarity with the poor. Aquino said this should entail better projects that would help the impoverished help themselves.
“We must go beyond the common understanding of charity. We must recognize the dignity of the poor by providing them the opportunity of earning for themselves and their families,” the senator said.
Sen. Loren Legarda, on the other hand, expressed hope citizens would take heed of the pope’s concern for the environment. She expressed disappointment that many who attended his concluding mass in Rizal Park were unable to keep the area free of trash.
“I don’t think it is too hard to find a waste basket or take trash back home to dispose of it properly. These simple acts should already 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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