House lacks time to press Cayetano suspension

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The House of Representatives on Wednesday adjourned its session without acting on a recommendation to suspend opposition Congressman Allan Peter Cayetano.

The recommendation, contained in a report prepared by the ethics committee headed by Rep. Roberto Cajes of Bohol, failed to reach plenary debates for “lack of material time.”

Congress adjourns Thursday.

The House majority leader, Prospero Nograles, confirmed having received the committee report, but he said it needs approval by the rules committee before it could be included in the Order of Business in plenary.

The problem is that the rules committee meets on Tuesdays, Nograles told reporters Wed­nesday. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to act on the committee report due to lack of material time.”

A two-thirds vote in House, or 154 members, is required to affirm the report.

Only 150 representatives attended the plenary session on Wednesday.

After a raucous hearing on Tuesday, the ethics committee decided to recommend a 45-day suspension for Cayetano.

The President’s husband, Mike Arroyo, had brought charges against the Taguig-Pateros congressman before the ethics panel after Cayetano claimed that the Arroyos kept “multimillion dollar” bank accounts in Germany.

On Wednesday Cayetano vowed to continue his fight against the Arroyo family.

“Certainly, I won’t stop from [hunting the Arroyo’s ‘ill-gotten wealth’],” he said in a television interview.

Nograles said the suspension was too harsh. “Personally, I would have preferred a reprimand or censure. But in this kind of issue, each congressman decides for himself . . . and their decision is summarized in the committee report,” Nograles, who heads the Committee on Rules, said.

He also said Cayetano “may have been fed the wrong information” about the Arroyos’ supposed accounts in the HypoVereinsbank in Munich, Germany.

Two members of the ethics panel expressed relief over the panel’s decision, saying Cayetano’s “worst efforts” to delay the hearings failed to prevent his censure.

Exequiel Javier of Antique and Eladio Jala of Bohol said the ethics committee gave Cayetano all the chance to present his evidence to support his allegations.

A House fact-finding team that met with bank officials had cleared the Arroyos.

But Cayetano said the bank accounts could have been under fictitious names.

“This is what we call ‘con-ass’ or concealment of assets of the Arroyos,” he said.

Voting 35 to three, the ethics committee on Tuesday recommended Cayetano’s suspension for “fabricating and lying” his allegations.

Makati City’s Agapito “Butz” Aquino abstained, calling the ethics panel a “kangaroo committee.”