SENATOR Antonio Trillanes 4th on Sunday said he sees no reason for the Senate blue ribbon committee to conduct further hearings on the allegedly overpriced Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) as it would only be a waste of resources and time of the Senate.
According to Trillanes, he will ask Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, committee chairman, not to proceed with proceedings on the ICC until such time that Manuel Mejorada, the accuser of Senate President Franklin Drilon, could come up with evidence that could back his claims that the convention center is overpriced.
Mejorada had filed a plunder compliant against Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. in connection with alleged irregularities in construction of the ICC.
Aside from his allegation that the structure was overpriced by more than P500 million, Mejorada also claimed that the bidding process was rigged in order for the accused to pick the contractor they wanted.
During last Thursday’s blue ribbon hearing, he admitted to the committee that he still has no evidence that could back his allegations and that his accusations are based on information he obtained from open sources such as Wikipedia and unnamed architects in Iloilo City where the center is located.
“Until such time that Mejorada obtained evidence or documents that would support his claims on the ICC project, the committee should not proceed with the probe,” Trillanes said in a radio interview aired over dzBB.
Guingona has suspended the hearing and is set to conduct another one to hear the testimony of former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr., a vocal critic of Drilon who also accused the Senate President of being involved in various anomalies.
It was Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who asked Guingona to invite the former Iloilo lawmaker to ICC hearings since Syjuco also has other issues against Drilon.
“Mr. Syjuco charges Senate President Franklin Drilon with the overprice by some P5 billion of certain Iloilo public works projects and with beneficial ownership of a Forbes Park home since 2004,” Santiago stated in a letter to Guingona.
But Trillanes said it would be better if the committee first asked Syjuco to present his affidavit and other documents that would support his allegations for the committee to review them first before conducting the hearing.
It this way, he added, the blue ribbon committee would be able to know if there was still need for the committee to hear Syjuco’s testimony or completely adjourn the ICC probe.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara agreed with Trillanes, saying requiring resource persons to submit sworn affidavits before they could be allowed to participate in investigations conducted by the Guingona panel is worth considering.
It was Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd who first brought up the idea to request witnesses to submit sworn affidavits and supporting documents first before coming to a committee hearing.
“Well established is a citizen’s freedom of speech but anybody who goes before the committee should have done [his]homework as much as possible and come up with supported testimony,” Angara pointed out
He said the policy could guaranty that witnesses will not change stories midway, nor will they use the committee as a venue for personal attacks or vendettas that are unsupported by evidence that has real probative value.
A resource person, Angara added, should be able to present proof before the blue ribbon committee when he alleges acts of corruption or malfeasance committed by public officials so that senators could properly study, examine and verify his claims.
He was the one who made Mejorada admit that he has no evidence to support his claims on the alleged overpricing of the construction of the ICC.