Senate session aborted due to lack of quorum

January 19, 2010 10:50 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Jan. 19 – The Senate suspended its session on Tuesday due to lack of quorum which Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile described as part of maneuvering by some senators to derail the presentation of a committee report on the C-5 extension road project in the plenary.

The required number to establish quorum is 12 but only 10 senators showed up, forcing Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri to move for suspension to the frustration of the present lawmakers, mostly signatories of the committee report that linked senator Manny Villar in the alleged anomalous construction of the C-5 road project.

Aside from Enrile and Zubiri, others present are senators Noynoy Aquino, Rodolfo Biazon, Jamby Madrigal, Chiz Escudero, Mar Roxas, Richard Gordoon, Jinggoy Estrada and Gringo Honasan.

Enrile expressed disgust as he threatened to exercise his power as Senate president against his colleagues who intentionally boycotted the session in an effort to prevent the presentation of the Senate committee of the whole report on the floor.

”This a maneuvering of some sort so that the committee report will not be discussed. I hope they will not underestimate what a Senate president can do,” Enrile warned.

When asked by the media what specific action he will do, Enrile answered “we will see” before leaving the plenary session.

The Senate has only seven remaining session days before adjournment sine die on Feb. 5 to give way for the election campaign period, which kicks off Feb. 9.

Among the absent senators, only senators Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel Jr., Panfilo Lacson and Miriam Defensor-Santiago (sick) have sent manifestations, mostly official business, for the failure to attend the session which resumed only last Monday.

The lawmakers, who did not gave reasons, include Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Allan Peter Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Villar , who is being accused of benefiting in the alleged realignment of the C-5 road project in Las Pinas.

Enraged by what he termed as ‘manuevering’ to kill the committee of the whole report, Enrile challenged Villar to be manned enough to answer the allegations hurled against him.

”If he wants to be president, he should be man enough. Don’t be coward. If he continue to act that way, I will tell the people not to vote him because he is coward,” the irritated Senate president declared.

Villar and fellow members of the minority bloc have already boycotted the investigation of the Senate committee of the whole which tackled the ethical complaints of Madrigal that Villar used his influence to allegedly realign the C-5 extension road project to benefit the Villar family’s real estate business in Las Pinas and Paranque cities.

A total of 12 senators signed on Monday night the committee report after Pangilinan decided to follow the stand of his party mates (Liberal Party), supporting the report which censured Villar in the anomalous road project.

Pangalinan was among the 12 senators who signed a resolution exonerating Villar in the controversial C-5 road project but the former withdrew his signature and instead threw support to the committee report.

Saying that the C-5 report was signed along “political faultlines,” Nacionalista Party (NP) senatorial bet former Rep. Gilbert Remulla said NP standard-bearer Villar got short shrift from his colleagues “as he was tried not only by an impartial jury of peers but also by a team of rivals.”

Former Rep. and Iloilo Vice governor Rolex Suplico said the railroading of the report was “a Liberal Party-ordered political hit on Villar.”

”It is purely and simply a political motivated hatchet job,” Suplico said.

Aside from Pangilinan, other LP members who signed the committee report are presidential candidate Aquino, vice presidential bet Roxas and Biazon.

Santiago explained that she voted to acquit Villar since the draft committee report admits that there is “no direct evidence” against Villar.

”This being so, the lack of direct evidence does not meet the standard of "proof beyond reasonable doubt." This is why I voted to acquit him,” Santiago explained through a press statement.

Meanwhile, Madrigal said she is preparing a plunder case to filed against Villar before the Ombudsman, using the committee of the whole report.

”The evidence is clear and beyond doubt. Senator Villar should now return the P6.2 billion spent in the realigned C-5 project from which he personally benefited,” Madrigal said.

Villar has already declared that the committee of the whole investigation was politically motivated since Madrigal was also running for president. (PNA) RMA/jfm

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