Press Release
August 2, 2006

They should attend resumption of Senate probe on Monday

Senate President Manny Villar echoes the sentiments of his fellow senators and remains firm that officials from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and other Cabinet members who snubbed Monday's Senate probe on the OWWA funds should face the music if they want to prove that they have nothing to hide.

"Had they appeared during Monday's Senate hearing, most of the clouds of doubts hanging over people's heads would have been cleared. It would have been a perfect opportunity for them to straighten things out. But what's worse than not showing up is holding their own press conference on the same day, when the excuse they used on the letter was that they were busy with evacuation of OFWs," says Villar.

Villar, upon the recommendation of chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources, signed the subpoenas issued to Cabinet officials who failed to show up in Monday's hearing. These are OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque; Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos; Labor Secretary Arturo Brion; Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr.; Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Chief Rosalinda Baldoz; and Ricardo Blancaflor, Undersecretary of the Office of the Executive Secretary.

"As the Senate President, I have to sign the subpoenas. I respect the recommendation of the committee chairman consistent with my goal to give Senate committees freedom to do what needs to be done. But as to whether we would issue warrants of arrest, we don't want to speculate on that. We also don't want to fuel to the flame, so to speak," cites Villar.

Villar further cites, "It would have really been less complicated had they not snubbed our invitation. Actually, these officials are not the ones who are important, the funds are. People are concerned about the funds, not them. I hope they would show up in the resumption of the OWWA funds hearing on Monday. Once and for all, this issue should be straightened out. OWWA owes us, especially the OFWs, an explanation." Some of the concerned officials have conducted private or closed-door briefings to some senators, but according to Villar, they still need to face the Senate as a whole in the committee hearing.

"If they want to brief senators privately, that's their concern. Whatever they do with their time that is their concern. But the Senate as a whole follows a formal procedure. If they are invited to attend a hearing, they should at least show up. They are still accountable to the Senate as a whole," adds Villar.

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