So Vice President Jejomar Binay reportedly “snubbed” the “hearing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee set just for him.”
What will the Philippine Senate do now? Sue the Vice President of the Philippines?
Good luck with that. Getting even a mountain of “evidence” collected in these “hearings” organised and filed in a proper complaint in a real Philippine court is something Congress can’t really boast as one of its better skills. Indeed, in a feat of prescience, the ABS-CBN News, reporting on the 2009 Senate Ethics Committee “probe” on then Senator Manuel Villar, dismissed these exercises as mere “slaps on the wrists” on their subjects. Villar, a presidential candidate at the time who, like Binay today, enjoyed immense popularity, was the subject of an Ethics Committee “inquiry” into anomalies surrounding his alleged ordering of a “double insertion of P200 million in the 2008 budget for the extension of the C-5 road.”
But the ABS-CBN News report also noted that “serious sanctions have yet to come out from such investigations.”
Former senators Renato Cayetano, Luisa Estrada, Heherson Alvarez, and Juan Flavier had previously faced an ethics probe. The most they received were a slap on the wrist.
A bit of interesting trivia as well: The late former Senator Juan Flavier who died recently and is now being hailed left and right in various after-the-fact tributes was himself almost a subject of an ethics complaint…
In August 2002, Flavier averted a full-blown probe by the committee when he apologized for making “insensitive remarks” to the Davao Compostela Valley School Teachers Association Inc. (DACOMPSTA).
DACOMPSTA filed an ethics complaint against the lawmaker after he told them in when they dropped by the senator’s office on August 20, 2001 to just “go to Noli de Castro whom [the teachers] voted for.”
DACOMPSTA said that Flavier blamed them for his poor showing in the Compostela Valley during his re-election bid for the Senate in 2001.
Flavier extended his apology to DACOMPSTA through a handwritten letter in April 2002 and reiterated his regrets in a letter to Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel Zamora.
None of the subjects of these “probes” ever had anything to fear, of course. According to the same report, “[the] harshest punishment that a senator received for an ethical violation is a reprimand.”
To be fair, the Senate Ethics Committee is different from the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. And in the case of the on-going probe against Binay, the subject is not a Philippine Senator and, therefore, not one of their own. But no less than Senate President Franklin Drilon dismisses the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee as no more than a toothless circus. It “is not a judicial proceeding, nor is it a criminal proceeding,” asserts Drilon.
Drilon pointed out that the only real outcome of a Blue Ribbon Committee “probe” was a “public humiliation” of its subject and not much else. “After viewing the spectacle of a nationally televised hearing, [subjects] are left hanging and unedified because in the end, the Committee does not prepare a Committee Report. It is like a judge who hears a case but does not render a written decision,” he also said.
Drilon also points out that today’s Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is also far more one-sided and oppressive to the subjects of its “investigations” than even the dreaded Military Commissions organised under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the height of Martial Law. Under Marcos’s Military Commissions;
An accused could freely challenge the impartiality of any member of the tribunal. And invariably, whoever was challenged recused himself. Ninoy Aquino challenged practically all the members; and that left Commission No. 2 with only three members. The Commission could not proceed. An accused or his counsel could confront and cross-examine witnesses against him. The Blue Ribbon Committee does not allow this.
In short, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee “investigations” have got Circus written all over it, and Vice President Binay snubs them to the best of his interest. But he needs to learn from the way former Chief Justice Renato Corona failed to control his emotional outbursts during his impeachment trial back in 2012. Binay just needs to shut up about the whole thing, ignore the bozos nipping at his heels, and get on with his other more imporant businesses at hand. Instead of carrying on about how “unfair” these hearings are and how they supposedly already “pre-judged” him, he should instead tell them: See you in court — if you ever get there.
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