Senate probe on BI bribery given jointly to Trillanes, Gordon panels

MANILA-- A day after Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Juan Miguel Zubiri nearly traded blows, the former's committee and Senator Richard Gordon's justice and human rights panel have been tasked to investigate jointly the alleged bribery in the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Upon motion of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the Senate on Wednesday unanimously decided to refer it to the Senate committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation chaired by Trillanes and to Gordon's committee the right to conduct inquiry into BI bribery scandal case.

Sotto proposed that Trillanes' committee deal in the reorganization aspect of the BI while Gordon's panel deal on the administration side of the bureau.

He said both the primary committees of Trillanes and Gordon may come up with separate committee reports if they wish "each dealing with separate concerns within the bounds of their jurisdictions."

"Nevertheless, we cannot preclude could preclude the blue ribbon committee from conducting its own hearing on the contention mentioned in Senate Resolution No. 256 particularly on the issue of graft and corruption," Sotto said.

He said the blue ribbon committee, also chaired by Gordon, is the only committee that can conduct a hearing on its own relative to the act of the public officials.

Last Tuesday, Trillanes and Zubiri nearly exchanged blows when the latter reacted to Trillanes' statement that Zubiri and Gordon wanted to whitewash the Senate inquiry into the BI bribery by blocking the referral of SRN 256 to Trillanes's panel.

Trillanes reminded Zubiri that he resigned as senator in 2007 due to an alleged election cheating which the latter denied.

Zubiri fired back and reminded his colleagues on the floor that Trillanes was imprisoned for rebellion in 2003.

Senator Manny Pacquiao, a famous world boxing champion, stepped in and prevented Trillanes and Zubiri from exchanging blows.

The two senators eventually shook hands after Senate President Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III ordered a suspension of the session.

"Hopefully, this will nurture a peaceful atmosphere in the Senate considering that we need to pass a number of legislation before the adjournment of session in March and in order to do that, we need a conducive environment by resolving this issue at the soonest possible time," Sotto said.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon filed SRN 256 directing the Senate committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation to look into possible reorganization of the BI.

Two BI Associate Commissioners Al C. Argosino and Michael B. Robles have been accused of extorting PHP50 million payoff from Chinese casino mogul Jack Lam.

President Rodrigo Duterte sacked the two BI commissioners, both the President's fraternity brothers in San Beda College of Law's Lex Talionis Fraternitas. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency