Press Release
September 24, 2013

Transcript of Press Briefing of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

SP DRILON: I received at 11am today the request of Senator TG Guingona for the issuance of a subpoena for Secretary De Lima to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday and to produce the whistleblowers during the said committee hearing.

I am signing this subpoena in your presence now, for Secretary De Lima to produce the witnesses mentioned in this subpoena. This is now the subpoena for Secretary De Lima and the other witnesses that the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee wishes Secretary De Lima to bring.

I agree with Senator Guingona that nobody should undermine the mandate and power of the Blue Ribbon Committee, much less of the entire Senate.

Listening to this debate, I cannot help but recall that the time during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Senate was prevented from requiring the presence of Cabinet members on certain corruption cases being then investigated by the Senate. President Arroyo then issued EO 464. I was the one who fought EO 464. I was the one who brought the issue to the Supreme Court. I will be the last person therefore to allow the Senate to be in that same situation again that we found ourselves during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I maintain that suppressing the truth is not consistent with our policy of transparency and public accountability.

Having said that, we must remember that we are a government of laws and not of men. I appreciate the passion of Senator TG Guingona, as Chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, to investigate the pork barrel scam in aid of legislation given the clamor of the public for more revelations.

However, my attention was called last Monday about the rule in the Office of the Ombudsman against public disclosure of the cases pending in the Office of the Ombudsman. That is why I sought the opinion of the Ombudsman on the request for a subpoena for Janet Napoles to appear before the committee.

I have now the opinion of the Ombudsman, where the Ombudsman ruled that it is not advisable, at this time, for Ms. Napoles to testify before the Blue Ribbon Committee on what she knows about the alleged scam for the reasons stated in said letter. I will be furnishing you copies of this letter.

Let us not forget that the Ombudsman is not an ordinary government functionary. She is an independent Constitutional official, and the Office of the Ombudsman is a Constitutional office. Out of prudence and out of respect for her office, we must defer to the judgment of the Ombudsman as she has acquired primary jurisdiction over the case.

As she stated in her letter: "I hope that the distinguished Senate will understand the concerns of this office, under the contextual circumstances of the case against Ms. Napoles et al., so that it can effectively discharge its mandate." The Ombudsman is in the best position to determine whether or not the prosecution of this case will be prejudiced by the appearance of Ms. Napoles in the Senate. That is a power and a function that is in her office recognized by law. So it is on that basis that we are deferring to the judgment and the ruling of the Ombudsman that we defer at this stage the appearance of Ms. Napoles before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee as, in her judgment, it could prejudice the prosecution of this case.

On the similarity of the subpoenas for Janet Napoles and the whistleblowers

SP DRILON: They are not similarly situated. The Ombudsman has ruled that the appearance of Ms. Napoles could prejudice the case in effect. There is no such finding in the case of the whistleblowers.

Q: Is it because walang ganyang opinion yung Ombudsman for the whistleblowers kahit dahil wala pa po kayong request from the Ombudsman?

SP DRILON: The office of the Ombudsman has already issued a ruling in the case of Napoles so we will follow that. There is no such request for the whistleblowers and the subpoena is addressed to Secretary de Lima. If Secretary de Lima thinks that she should request the opinion of the Ombudsman, that is the matter that Secretary de Lima should handle.

Q: Considering na deferment lang yung possibility na mag-appear si Janet Napoles?

SP DRILON: As I said, this is the call of the Ombudsman. We should respect her call.

Q: Yung kay Napoles, hiningi niyo ang comment ng Ombudsman, bakit yung sa mga whistleblowers hindi?

SP DRILON: As I said, the subpoena is addressed to Secretary de Lima. It is Secretary de Lima, in her judgment, if she would need the view or opinion of the Ombudsman. That is her own prerogative.

Q: Ito pong sagot ni Ombudsman sa inyo, parang ang naguusap po ay abogado sa abogado dahil sa mga wordings. Sinasabi din niya na opinion niya lang ito. Hindi po ba dapat ito magkaroon ng isang judge na magddetermine kung kailangan talaga pumunta dito or hindi?

SP DRILON: That's why I said, out of respect for her office, I have decided to defer to her judgment.

Q: Hindi kaya gamitin ni de Lima tong reason na to?

SP DRILON: That is speculative.

Q: Pero since hindi involved si Napoles kay de Lima?

SP DRILON: As I said, that is the judgment on the part of de Lima.

Q: Bakit po dun sa whistleblowers, inaassert yung authority ng Senate tungkol dun sa resource person pero dun sa kay Janet Lim-Napoles, bakit po nadefer sa Ombudsman?

SP DRILON: The time that I received this subpoena for Napoles, I thought that the best course was to ask for the opinion of the Ombudsman. This one, she is the Secretary of Justice. The subpoena is addressed to her. As I said, if she wishes to take the course, that is the judgment that she would take.

Q: Diba yung involvement is same case lang naman with Napoles and the whistleblowers?

SP DRILON: As I already said, meron na pong opinion si Conchita Carpio-Morales. Kaya yan po ang sinunod ko.

Q: But the Senate is not bound to follow the Ombudsman. Why uphold the Ombudsman's interest over the interest of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee?

SP DRILON: Because the case is already under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Yan po ang nakalagay sa batas. Ang primary jurisdiction ay nasa Ombudsman at sa ilalim ng Ombudsman act, meron po siyang kapangyarihan na tignan the public disclosures of the evidence and the case should not prejudice the prosecution of the case before.

Q: Sabi ni Senator Guingona, si-nite niya yung Pimentel vs Judge Maumbong na i-uphold ng Supreme Court yung kapangyarihan ng senado ni i-compel any person for any legislative hearing?

SP DRILON: I am sure that the Ombudsman was aware of this case and she has given this advice and ruling. I defer to the ruling of the Ombudsman. I am not about to debate at this point. Ang sinusundan ko lang yung opinion at ruling ng Ombudsman.

Q: What's the difference with the Garcia plea bargain case when Garcia's case is already pending before the Sandiganbayan?

SP DRILON: That's correct because the rule is with the Office of the Ombudsman, the rule against public disclosure is in Section 15 of the Ombdusman Act and under the rules of procedure of the Ombudsman and not the Sandiganbayan.

Q: Yung mga testimony ba ng whistleblower sa Thursday hind imaging prejudice sa kaso?

SP DRILON: That is a judgment that Sec. De Lima would have to make.

Q: What is Sec. De Lima gets the same answer from the Ombudsman, will the Senate also defer to the Ombdusman?

SP DRILON: Let's not speculate. In the first place, I would not know if De Lima would ask the Ombudsman.

Q: Sino ang susundin ng Senado? Yung Ombudsman o yung court ruling?

SP DRILON: There is a law and the Ombudsman has invoked her authority. I am not about to debate as to who is correct. I am just deferring out of respect and prudence to the advice and ruling of the Ombudsman.

Q: Sen. Guingona expressed disappointment...

SP DRILON: I tried to call him but his phone is off. But let me again emphasize that this is a law Congress itself enacted, the law that was passed, I think in 1989. In that law, it contains a rule against public disclosure kaya iyon ang batas na sinusundan ng Ombudsman. Out of respect and prudence, we defer to the Ombudsman. I am not about to dispute the correctness or whatever. This is an opinion she expressed. I am not about to debate with you on that. I just deferred to the judgment.

The subpoena was issued by the chairman and it was addressed to Janet Napoles. I referred it to the Ombudsman and this is now the opinion of the Ombudsman. Regardless of our opinion is beside the point. The point is the Ombudsman has ruled that indeed she is asking that bringing of Napoles to the Senate be deferred and she said "it is not advisable at this point for Napoles to testify at this time." She has made a plea hoping that the Senate will understand the concerns of her office, under the contextual circumstances of the cases against Napoles et al. so that it can effectively discharge its mandate." That's exactly what she said.

Q: There is no attempt from the Senate for Napoles to spill the beans against the senators?

SP DRILON: There is none.

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