Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago warned Thursday that a Senate hearing meant to "evaluate" former Local Government undersecretary Rico Puno is in peril from what could be a "deliberate boycott" by senators.
Santiago, who chairs the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, said in a statement that the hearing might be "sabotaged" by a lack of quorum.
Santiago said none of the 11 members of the committee have confirmed their attendance at Friday's hearing and that many have said they will be out of town. If nobody shows up, the hearing will have to be called off since a committee needs a quorum of two senators under Senate rules.
"If it happens, such a deliberate boycott will indicate that even my fellow senators who are members of my committee do not support my initiative. I will certainly raise a protest, but I’m thinking at the moment of what form my protest will take," she said.
Santiago said that if the senators fail to attend the hearing, "this can only mean that the senators have been ordered by Malacañang to stay away."
Senate hearings have been rescheduled in the past because of conflicting schedules.
According to the committee directory on the Senate website, Senators Edgardo Angara, Franklin Drilon,
Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Lapid, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III,
Antonio Trillanes IV, and Manuel Villar Jr. are on the committee with Santiago.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, and Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano are also members because of their positions in the Senate leadership.
Puno, who resigned from the Department of Interior and Local Government on Tuesday, was not on the list of confirmed resource speakers for the hearing.
Santiago said that if he does not show "then it will show that he is a craven coward, that all charges against him are probably true, and that he is thumbing his nose at the Filipino public."
Aside from a lack of quorum, the hearing may also be irregular, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told reporters Wednesday. Enrile, who will miss the hearing because he has another appointment, said the Senate is studying whether it may be "going beyond our mandate."
"Pinag-aaralan ng Rules Committee because walang resolution, walang privilege speech, walang pending bill regarding that. We want to find out what is sought by the lady Senator could be done. Normally, there is an oversight of that committee. That oversight can function to conduct evaluation of the performance of the offices involved. Pero walang oversight ata ‘yung committee. Hindi naman naming pinagbabawalan pero pinag-aaralan namin 'yun," he said.
"Titingnan kung, motu proprio (on its own), any committee in the Senate can just call a hearing to evaluate an office because that is normally a function of the Executive Department," he said.
The hearing was scheduled under the heading "Evaluation of the DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno Event, under the Administrative Code and the 1990 DILG Act, as amended by the 1998 Police Reform Act".
Santiago said Tuesday that the hearing would look into Puno's alleged attempt to enter the condominium unit of the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo while search and rescue operations for Robredo were ongoing. The hearing would also look into how effective Puno, as undersecretary for peace and order, had been in controlling the illegal numbers game jueteng.
Amid questions hurled against its early partial proclamation, the poll body on Friday named three more winning Senate candidates even before it completed its official count.