Philippines: Arroyo clamps gag order on officials

Corruption charges continually dog the Arroyo administration but they never seem to lead to her downfall. Arroyo is a hugely successful pork barrel politician. Ordering officials not to testify is a standard tack that she takes when someone might open their mouth too wide! There is also an impeachment process going on at the same time. This is from the Manila Times.

Palace-poised gag of execs in Senate probe of ‘bribes’ hit


A senator yesterday said President Arroyo should allow the members of her Cabinet, her aides, as well as congressmen and governors allied or not with the administration, to testify at the Senate inquiry into the distribution of “cash gifts” in Malacañang last Oct. 11 if it wants the truth behind the incident to come out, or it could be suspected of hedging it for some sordid reason.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said this as he assailed the Palace for stating that it will not cooperate with the upper chamber’s probe into the issue and instead will impose a gag order on Cabinet officials and local executive officials who will be invited and summoned to the hearings by the concerned Senate panel.

“If it is true as Malacañang insists, that the money distributed during the Palace meeting, ranging from P200,000 to P500,000 to each congressman and governor, did not come from the government and President Arroyo did not have anything to do with the alleged payoff, let them prove their claim by not preventing the appearance of administration personalities who will be invited to the Senate probe,” Pimentel said.

He said the Senate, in conducting the inquiry, is merely discharging its mandated function to check the appropriateness of the moves of the Executive branch.

Should Malacañag block the inquiry by not granting permission to invited officials of the Executive branch, Pimentel said this will instantly create the impression that the Palace is trying to hide the truth behind the matter.

He also said this will lend credence to suspicion that Mrs. Arroyo knew, or had a hand in the distribution of the largesse.

On the participation of the congressmen in the Senate probe to start on Wednesday, Pimentel said they can be asked to testify without violating the inter-chamber courtesy rule between the Senate and House of Representatives.

“There will be no breach of the inter-chamber courtesy if they will accept the Senate invitation or voluntarily appear at the hearing,” he said.

He said there have been a number of instances in the past when congressmen honored the invitation of the Senate to testify in its investigation on matters where they are involved or have knowledge for the sake of truth and the public interest.

Pimentel said the inquiry intends to determine the purpose for which the monies were distributed, where it came from, and who received it.

If the money came from the public coffers, he said it is very important that the actual source of funds, the government agencies and the public officials who facilitated the disbursement involved should be known.

“But whether the money came from the government or private sources, the persons involved in their distribution will be in deep trouble. For if it is taxpayers’ money, they may be liable for malversation.

“Meanwhile, if it came from private corporations or individuals, it may constitute lobby or bribe money. Meaning, it is being given in consideration of certain government favors,” Pimentel said.


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