Press Release
August 12, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Malacañang erred in requiring the Senate to submit a list of proposed questions to the Palace before allowing Cabinet members and subordinate officials to appear in congressional hearings.

Pimentel said it is only during the Question Hour that the Senate or House of Representatives is required to furnish to the President a list of questions that the Cabinet members are be requested to answer in accordance with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

I dont see that specified anywhere in the Constitution, he said of the Palaces insistence on the submission of questions by the Senate in advance as a condition for the appearance of officials of the executive branch during congressional inquiries.

Because of this, Pimentel urged the Senate to go ahead with the imposition of sanctions on Cabinet members and heads of agencies who have ignored the Senate summons to testify in the probe on the welfare fund for overseas Filipino workers being administered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

He disagreed with the proposal of some senators to bring the case to the Supreme Court and seek a clarification of its ruling which held that Executive Order 464 was unconstitutional insofar as requiring Cabinet members and lower-level officials to seek presidential clearance before appearing in congressional hearings.

The better option for the Senate is to hold the people who refuse to heed its summons in contempt, order their arrest and detention. Then, let those, who do not believe that the Senate has that power, contest it before the Supreme Court, the minority leader said.

Since it is our power as Senate that has been rebuffed several times by people who are merely trying to delay, if not obfuscate the issues of our investigations, let them question our power to impose sanctions on their recalcitrance.

Pimentel stressed that in his own view, it is better that the party challenging the right of the Senate should bring the issue to the Supreme Court, rather than the senators doing it.

Unless the Senate exercises its contempt and arrest powers over those who defy its summons, the chamber may be unwittingly allowing the dilution of its powers, he said.

We have to assume that what we are doing is right. And I think tradition and practice and the wordings of the Constitution will support this view of mine that we are in the right when we order the arrest of people who refuse to appear before the Senate, Pimentel explained.

If we allow that to go unchallenged, that will whittle down the powers of the Senate as an investigate body which needs to look into the anomalies perpetrated by the administration.

At the same time, Pimentel said the alleged diversion of OWWA funds to projects or purposes other than what they were intended for should need the clarification of President Arroyo and other administration officials concerned.

The people must be informed about what happened to the OWWA funds. It is the responsibility of the government to tell our people where the funds went. Otherwise, the impression will remain that the government misapplied and misused the OWWA funds for purposes for which the funds were not intended, he said.

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