House to probe lost recording

THE House committee on good government and public accountability will summon personnel in charge of the CCTV system in the House of Representatives to determine why footage that might have shown the delivery of bribes to congressmen had been deleted.

The panel is investigating allegations that Bureau of Immigration officials accepted millions of pesos from suspected Chinese crime lord Wang Bo in return for his release, then sent part of the money to Congress to bribe lawmakers into swiftly approving the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Earlier, the panel headed by Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, summoned officials of Wang’s employer, ELC Technologies Consulting Inc., amid suspicion that it was being used as a front for illegal gambling.

Phantom office? An employee at the King’s Court building in Makati
points to the seventh-floor sign for ELC Tech Consulting, the local
company which reportedly  hired suspected crime lord Wang Bo.
The unoccupied office is listed as  “under renovation” in the office
of the building’s administrator. Ey Acasio
The Standard tries to reach the company for comment, but the person who answered its listed number said the phone was a personal one, and did not belong to the company.

The Standard also went to ELC’s office in Makati, but there was no one in the office that was listed by the building administrator as being under renovation.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, was among the lawmakers who insisted of the CCTV footage.

“The CCTV will provide as evidence to the allegation of payola,” De la Cruz said, adding that the testimony of the House personnel in charge of the CCTV would also be crucial to explain why some footage was said to have been overwritten.

Sources earlier told The Standard that P440 million had been allocated to pay off lawmakers to vote for the BBL’s passage.

The report, written by The Standard senior reporter Christine Herrera, irked some members of the committee, and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. filed a motion to cite Herrera in contempt for refusing to reveal her sources.

Herrera wrote in The Standard that the bags of cash were unloaded at the rear entrance of the House of Representatives and taken to the office of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., an allegation that Belmonte and others have denied.

On Thursday, House Deputy Majority Leader and Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said it would be better if the investigation is handled by a neutral body like the Senate to remove suspicions of whitewash and “media bullying.”

“I have no doubt on the integrity of the House and the good intentions of the representatives pushing for this probe. But I think that the House is not the proper venue considering that it is the House of Representatives that is the subject of investigation. How can the subject of investigation be the investigator itself?” Nograles said in a statement released to House media.

Nograles pointed out the Senate is in the best position to conduct the investigation in aid of legislation on the Wang Bo controversy and the alleged payoff and bribery of government officials “being a co-equal body in the same branch of government.”

“I don’t believe that the bribery happened but nonetheless, a neutral and more independent panel like the Senate should conduct the probe. Being a co-equal body in the same branch of government, the Senate must be the one to continue the congressional inquiry on the reported acts of bribery committed by Wang Bo so as to ferret out the truth as soon as possible,” Nograles said.

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