AFTER going through so much trouble in summoning businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation this coming Thursday, a senator is now asking the chairman of the panel to reschedule her appearance to a later date.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña 3rd, vice chairperson of the cited committee, has asked panel chairperson Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd to move the scheduled appearance of Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, to November 18, when Congress resumes session.
According to Osmeña, majority of the senators are out of town and would not be able to attend the November 7 hearing.
“I am requesting Sen. TG Guingona to move the November 7 hearing to November 18, the day that Congress resumes. I am concerned that more than half the members of the Senate will be out of town since Congress is still on break,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
In his request to reset Napoles’ appearance, Osmeña said that Senators must have the opportunity to propound questions to Napoles and show to the public that the chamber is not trying to hide the truth.
“The credibility of the Senate would be enhanced by more openness and greater transparency,” he added.
Guingona in September asked Senate President Franklin Drilon to sign a subpoena compelling Napoles to appear and testify before the pork barrel scam investigation of the blue ribbon committee.
But instead of signing it, Drilon asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ opinion on the move to summon Napoles before the cited Senate panel. Drilon reportedly mulled whether summoning Napoles would be consistent with rules of the Office of Ombudsman since the plunder complaint against the businesswoman is already pending with the said office.
Carpio-Morales then cautioned the panel against summoning Napoles and asking her to testify about the alleged misuse of public funds because her appearance could adversely affect public interest, prejudice the safety of witnesses, or the disposition of the cases against Napoles.
Drilon heeded Morales’ advice and decided not to sign the subpoena. This prompted Guingona to write to the Senate President and ask him to reconsider his decision. Guingona cited jurisprudence supporting the Senate’s power to summon persons involved in cases being investigated by the Ombudsman.
However, Drilon once again sought the opinion of Morales who reiterated her previous position on the issue. The Ombudsman, this time, acknowledged the authority of the Senate.
“That the Senate is supreme in its own sphere was never meant to be challenged. I thus submit to the collective wisdom of its members,” Morales stated in a letter dated September 27.
Drilon’s decision not to sign the subpoena drew flak from the public. He was even accused of trying to prevent Napoles from appearing before the Senate panel for fear that Napoles may implicate other government officials allied with the administration.
The Senate president only agreed to sign the subpoena for Napoles on October 16.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee has summoned Napoles to attend a hearing on November 7 at 10 a.m. to respond to testimonies made before the committee that she masterminded the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam that supposedly involves several lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Besides Napoles, the panel also summoned whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suna, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones.
The cited whistleblowers implicated Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and several lawmakers in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
Estrada is currently out of the country while Revilla has filed a suit for damages against the whistleblowers.