The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, which is chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, will handle the inquiry on the accusation of Sen. Risa Hontiveros that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II was plotting to bring cases against her.
Hontiveros had no objection to the referral made on Wednesay by Senate Majority Leader Vicent Sotto III, saying she would “submit to the wisdom of the rules committee and the majority leader.”
“I’m thanking the good majority leader for keeping his promise to soonest report out the decision of the committee of rules as to where to refer my privilege speech,” Hontiveros said, agreeing that, as with all committees, the privilege speech she made last week would be examined in a just manner.
Hontiveros had actually asked the referral of her speech to the Senate Committee on Civil Service, which is chaired by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, and the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, which is chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
But Sotto said his rules committee would decide first the appropriate committees.
In her privilege speech last week, Hontiveros showed a picture taken of Aguirre, during the Sept.5 hearing of the police killings of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, looking at his phone which showed his text conversation with a “Cong Jing.”
Hontiveros said Aguirre was talking to Jacinto “Jing” Paras, a former House representative and now a member of the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption.
Aguirre, she said, was telling Paras that they should start filing cases against the senator after they noted she had coached a 31-year-old witness at the hearing.
Hontiveros then accused Aguirre of plotting against a sitting senator and demanded his resignation for “unethical” behavior since it was his office which would decide whether to prosecute a person.
At the start of the session on Wednesday, Sotto said an examination of the speech of Hontiveros showed that it should fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate blue ribbon committee as it involved the “wrongdoings of a public official.”
He said that he saw the need to find some “middle ground” and that it was his duty to ensure the hearing would be orderly.
Passing the investigation to Lacson’s committee, Sotto said, would be the “most logical and Solomonic decision,” because the incident involving Aguirre “emanated” from the hearing conducted by Lacson’s committee.
“In effect, what will happen is there not even a need to call for a separate hearing as there is an ongoing hearing which can decide on the accusations hurled by Senator Hontiveros,” he said. “And in fact, the issue on wiretapping, which has been mentioned a number of times, can also be addressed by the particular committee.”
Sotto also opined that Lacson “has always been impartial and known for his neutrality.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon concurred with Sotto‘s proposal, saying that the “rules would allow it.”
“So on those grounds, we concur in the result of the research and motion and manifestation of the majority leader,” Drilon said.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros said Aguirre merely confirmed his text conversation “by trying to skirt the issue with long statements and convulated legal arguments.”
“Why is the justice secretary invoking the Anti-Wire Tapping Law? Is he admitting that the text conversation is real?” she said.
She hit back at Aguirre for accusing her of indecency and being unethical, saying: “There is nothing more indecent and unethical than being caught red-handed plotting against a senator during a Senate hearing inside the Senate.”
She denied having violated his privacy as there was no intention to tap or intercept his messages.
“What happened can simply be likened to overhearing a conversation, which was inadvertently caught by soneone’s camera lens,” Hontiveros said, referring to the fact that someone gave her a photograph of Aguirre’s phone.