Senate, WB clash over report looms

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Senate and the World Bank are on collision course over the latter’s report accusing some Filipino contractors and prominent names of being involved in “collusion” and “corrupt practices” to corner the bulk of construction programs in the country financed by the international funding agency.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he would approve a request for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum for top WB officials including country director Bert Hoffman, in order to compel them to attend the next Senate hearing on the controversy.

Any person subpoenaed by the Senate and who refused to honor it risks being cited for contempt and jailed at a facility to be chosen by the chamber.

Senator Miriam Santiago, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, which is spearheading the investigation, earlier expressed disgust that the controversial WB report that also purportedly linked First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, could not be revealed to the public.

The prohibition on its public disclosure and use in the initiation of administrative or criminal proceedings was the excuse given by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, in deflecting criticisms that her office has done nothing on the issue since she got hold of the report and for not giving any copy to lawmakers.

Hoffman had been invited to the hearing yesterday which sought to clarify the reasons on why the WB blacklisted at least three Filipino construction companies from further participating in any of its infrastructure projects here and abroad.

“He (Hoffman) did not honor our invitation so on the motion of the chair, confident of the support of the members of the three committees which have been assigned to this issue, now declares its intention to issue subpoena duces tecum to Mr. Hoffman,” Santiago said.

“I will sign the subpoena duces tecum if it is presented to me. I take the responsibility of bringing that guy here,” Enrile told Senate reporters later.

Overall, Mr. Arroyo labeled the accusations against him as “outrageous.”