Press Release
February 12, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said he welcomes Malacañang s decision to lift the ban on Cabinet members appearance before the budget hearings of the Senate but stressed that it should not impose any condition or limitation on the deliberations and questions that should be raised by legislators.

Pimentel stressed that the Cabinet members and their subordinate officials have nothing to fear about facing the senators if they have nothing to hide and if they have not committed any misdeed in the performance of their functions.

He said nobody can prevent the senators from asking questions from the Cabinet members which they feel will help determine whether government agencies are using the taxpayers money wisely.

Of course, everything that we ask is related to the budget. They should stop telling us not to ask questions relative to the abuses that have been committed in their turf, the minority leader said.

Pimentel said that the Palaces gag order has inflicted harm on the government because the inevitable consequence is to derail the passage of the 2006 national budget and to defy the powers of Congress over the purse that is enshrined in the Constitution.

The President should uphold and recognize the powers of the Senate, and of Congress in general to enact appropriation laws, and to apportion the budget for our people, he said.

The minority leader warned that the budgetary allocations of certain departments and agencies whose heads would refuse to attend the Senate budget hearings are in danger of being cut off.

It would be difficult for the Senate to grant the budget being requested by these departments if the Cabinet members concerned will not show up to give their justification, Pimentel said.

He said the ban on the appearance of Cabinet members before budget hearings is a manifestation that the President is no longer interested in seeing the P1.06 trillion budget for the current fiscal year approved.

And to my mind the whole rationale behind that attitude is not only to create a dysfunction between the work of the Senate and the executive department but also to make sure that the budget for 2006 is not approved on time which therefore means that the budget for 2005 is reenacted which they will now used as a pork barrel. That to me is the name of the game here, the senator said.

Pimentel said this was the first time in the countrys history when the President of the land herself is the one sabotaging the work of a co-equal branch of government.

He said the Presidents unwarranted act indicates that she is desperate to do everything to block the processes of law because she is afraid that if the law is allowed to take its course, she will wind up in jail.

The minority leader said President Arroyo must be removed from office but it has to be done peacefully, not violently because to my mind she is really the cause of all these problems.

Gloria is afraid that once she is out of power, she will be put in jail for all the anomalies that her government is doing. And therefore she is trying everything, including trespassing the powers of the Senate, to prevent the anomalies from being uncovered, Pimentel said.

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