Enrile blasts yearlong Senate Binay probe; it’s self-destructing
It is no longer an investigation in aid of legislation.
That’s Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s observation on the hearings being conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee into allegations that Vice President Jejomar Binay amassed illegal wealth while he was mayor of Makati City.
“It’s unusual in any country for an investigation to last that long in aid of legislation. So it destroys itself,” he said. “I said it is self-destructing. Let them proceed because in the long term they will become irrelevant.”
“An investigation like that is already losing its own steam and value,” Enrile told reporters Tuesday on his second day in the Senate following his release on bail while the plunder case against him is undergoing trial in the Sandiganbayan.
Enrile, a political ally of Binay and who has assumed his post as Senate minority leader, said the length of the Binay inquiry, which started a year ago, was unprecedented.
He noted that the inquiry into the alleged overprice of the Makati City Hall Building II in aid of legislation had expanded “too far away” from the original resolution and delved into other issues.
Asked if he would raise the matter with the Senate leadership, he said they were “brilliant” and “responsible” people and should know what is good for the Senate and its image.
Let the people judge
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the subcommittee chair, said Enrile was entitled to his opinion and he respected that.
“But we will endeavor for it not to self-destruct,” Pimentel said in a text message.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who initiated the inquiry against Binay, said the public was the better judge of the subcommittee’s performance.
“It has an unprecedented length because we’re dealing with unprecedented corruption by a public official too,” Trillanes said in a text message.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, the third senator actively participating in the subcommittee probe, said he disagreed with Enrile. As long as the hearing exposes graft and corruption, it could never be considered losing steam and value.
While people may frown on negativism, Cayetano said they also support efforts to expose wrongdoing which leads to reform.
“If you think about 30 years of corruption, how can you expose all that in one year?” he said in a phone interview. He also said the delay was due to the Binay camp, which hid documents and witnesses.
After celebrating its first anniversary last week, the subcommittee seems to have no plan of letting up in its probe and is set to hold its 24th hearing Wednesday.
The subcommittee also continues to go after people identified with Binay and his alleged dummies.
On Tuesday, the mother blue ribbon committee ordered the arrest of Marguerite Lichnok, the wife of Binay’s close aide Gerry Limlingan, and 10 other people, including Erlinda, Irish, Irene, and Kim Tun Chong, Laureano Gregorio Jr., Jack Arroyo, and James and Anne Lorraine Tiu.
There are also standing orders to arrest Limlingan and Eduviges Baloloy, identified as Binay’s longtime secretary.
The committee granted the request of subcommittee chair Pimentel to cite Lichnok for contempt and to order her arrest.
The Senate’s subpoenas and invitation to Lichnok had not been given to her as she had not been located, but Pimentel said these were deemed served even though not physically served.
Pimentel said that following the procedure, a show-cause order was issued requiring her to explain why she should not be held in contempt. Since no explanation was filed, she should be cited for contempt.
Lichnok has been mentioned as one of the officers of the firms that Binay allegedly owned through dummies.
In ordering Jack Arroyo’s arrest, the committee said that despite subpoenas, he had not appeared at the hearings in connection with alleged irregularities surrounding the University of Makati’s contract with STI and Philippine Health Educators Inc.
Gregorio, on the other hand, was summoned to the hearing to explain allegations concerning a vast Rosario, Batangas, property that has been dubbed “Hacienda Binay.”
In the case of the Erlinda, Irish, Irene, and Kim Tun Chong, Pimentel asked that their arrest orders issued earlier be enforced after they failed to make good on their promise to appear before the subcommittee hearing.
Two other Chong family members, Kimsfer and Imee, appeared at an earlier subcommittee hearing.
James Tiu, brother of businessman Antonio Tiu who is alleged to be a Binay dummy, asked the subcommittee to recall the arrest and contempt order against him and his wife, Anne Lorraine, and to excuse their appearance at the hearings.
According to James, he and his wife face security threats. While he was driving along Katipunan Avenue on April 22, he said armed men tried to accost him but he was able to evade them after a car chase. He said he and his family might not be as lucky next time.
Pimentel, however, said James did not attach the police report on the incident, adding that anyone can make up a story.
He asked that the standing arrest orders against James and Anne Lorraine be enforced, and the committee granted his motion.
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