Another opposition solon opts out of Munich probe

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Another opposition lawmaker has backed out of a fact-finding trip to Germany to verify charges raised by Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano that the First Gentleman kept a secret bank account in a Munich bank.

Manila Rep. Benito Abante declined to join the House fact-finding team which left for Munich, Germany at 2 p.m. yesterday. The other day, Reps. Roilo Golez of Parañaque and Etta Rosales of the Akbayan party-list, withdrew from the team. Abante, Golez and Rosales represented the opposition in the House panel.

Their withdrawal was described by majority members of the House ethics committee as a face-saving move. “ They are merely avoiding embarrassment since officials of HypoVereinsbank already certified that the First Family does not have any secret bank account with them.”

Lanao del Sur Rep. Benasing Macarambon and Bohol Rep. Eladio Jala said the opposition itself doubted the claims raised by Cayetano.

Explaining his move, Abante said he was no longer interested in joining the fact-finding team. “I don’t think there is a need.”

Golez and Rosales doubted whether they would be able to get a comprehensive report from the German bank because of the refusal of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to issue a waiver so the alleged secret bank account can be checked.

They claimed the absence of a waiver from the Arroyos would render the mission futile as bank officials could ignore the entire delegation.

It was only Bohol Rep. Roberto Cajes, chairman of the House committee on ethics, and Alagad party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta who left for Munich. They were joined by House Deputy Majority Leader Antonio Cerilles.

The House will spend at least $1,200 for the plane ticket of each congressman apart from their allowances for the five-day trip to Germany.

The team left Ninoy Aquino International Airport aboard Qatar Airways flight 647 shortly after 2 p.m. bound to Qatar. They will then board another plane going to Berlin before proceeding to Munich. They are expected to be back on Feb. 5 instead of Feb. 4 which was the original plan.

Opposition lawmakers including House Minority Leader Francis Escudero and Rep. Joel Villanueva branded the trip as “junket.”

But Macarambon and Jala said the opposition’s calling the probe a junket was just a lame excuse not to join the fact-finding mission to Munich.

Macarambon said if the opposition is keen on defending their colleague and knowing the truth, they would have shown greater interest in the probe.

The Munich probe is part of the legitimate function of the ethics committee to determine all the facts from the source especially when the respondent cannot produce any piece of document to prove his allegations against the First Family, Macarambon said.

“We have discussed the trip and even agreed to send a fact-finding mission to Munich, but after all this, the minority members just backed out and avoided their duty.”

He said the outcome of the Munich trip would greatly help the ethics committee in deciding on the complaints against Cayetano.

“It’s not a problem that the minority refused to participate in the Munich probe. What we are after now is the result of the probe in HypoVereinsbank.”

Jala considered an affront to the House ethics panel to call the Munich fact-finding trip a junket.

He said the trip was a collegial decision by the committee members.

“In the first place, we need not send a team to Germany if only Cayetano was able to present evidence to prove his allegations against the First Family.”

Senior officials of the bank earlier certified that the bank accounts mentioned by Cayetano did not exist. Copies of the bank certification were presented during the ethics committee hearing.