Press Release
May 10, 2009


The minority will present a number of amendments to the rules of the Senate committee of the whole during its third meeting today to ensure that Sen. Manuel Villar's right to due process is not impaired when it investigates the ethics complaint against him.

Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed confidence that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will keep his word to allow them to introduce the amendments despite the objection of Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

He argued that since the committee of the whole is composed of all the senators, it should have a rule for determining the quorum different from that of an ordinary committee likes the ethics committee which has a much smaller membership.

The minority, he said, would also want to propose changes in other parts of the rules like the manner of conducting the hearings, the questioning of the complainant and witnesses and the assessment of whether or not the complaint is sufficient in form and substance.

Pimentel said it is necessary that the rules are free of flaws to prevent mistakes and confusion even as he stressed that the minority does not want to delay the proceedings of the investigation on the Villar case.

"We want to make sure that the investigation proceeds according to legal and ethical principles and not illegitimately and unethically by preventing a full discussion of what rules are to be adopted for the governance of the Senate committee of the whole," he said.

An ordinary or regular committee is composed of from seven to l5 members. Under Senate rules, there is a quorum if one-third of the members is present. The presence of two members is enough to constitute a quorum for the purposes of transacting business or conducting a hearing.

If there are more than one committee involved in the probe, Pimentel said the quorum requirement should be one-third of the individual committee membership but should not be less than two from each committee.

Pimentel said that in the case of the committee of the whole which has 24 members, there a quorum if one half plus one of the total membership, or l3 senators, are present.

He said the contention of Senate President Enrile that the rules of the ordinary committee were applied to the committee of the whole in determining the quorum in past investigations does not mean that this is a correct practice.

"If the use of the rules of an ordinary committee or committees by implication in conducting investigations by the extraordinary Senate committee of the whole went unchallenged in the past, the practice is now being disputed. Simply because an erroneous practice was tolerated in times gone by does not mean that the error should be perpetuated and allowed to ripen into a rule ineradicably written on stone," Pimentel said.

News Latest News Feed