‘Tug-of-war over Wang'

BOTH the House of Representatives and the Senate appear to be in a tug-of-war over the  alleged bribery case involving Chinese businessman Wang Bo with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. saying on Saturday the House will not yield in its probe until the chamber ferrets out the truth and the upper chamber also keen on looking into Wang’s case. 

“The committee will continue its investigation,” Belmonte told The Standard in a text message as a response to the proposal of Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles that the Senate, and not the House, should conduct the probe of the matter.

China also wants this man: Wang Bo
Belmonte said the allegation of payola was “very serious” and “very damaging” to the House as an institution, but “so far nothing connects any House member or the House except unsubstantiated speculations.”

The speaker made the remark after Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, filed a resolution calling for an investigation of the Wang Bo case.

Guingona also noted in his resolution they want to establish if bribe money was used to gain the approval for the BBL during plenary debates in the House of Representatives.

Belmonte, together with House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II and Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, authored House Resolution 2151 seeking “an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged bribery and corruption activities involving Chinese national Wang Bo.”

Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting of the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar  Binay, echoed Belmonte’s view that the House must pursue the probe, and not pass on its homework to the Senate.

“The House is a co-equal body of the Senate and having the latter investigate the former will denigrate the independence of the House,” Tambunting said in a separate interview.

“The House should conduct its own investigation because its integrity as an institution is at stake and it is its duty to punish erring members if the allegations are found to be true,” Tambunting added.

But Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano backed Nograles’ suggestion.

“I agree with [Congressman Karlo Nograles] in this: just to erase the doubt that the House will just cover up the issue or harass the witnesses,” Alejano, a former mutineer, said.

Alejano said the Senate may also conduct its probe into the matter to address and determine what he said as “two important issues:   whether the extortion really happened or not; and whether the purpose of extortion is to buy out support for BBL or not.”

Earlier, several lawmakers said that the House panel conducting the probe, headed by Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, should not stop in its quest for truth involving the alleged payoff.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, said his panel will submit to the Supreme Court a copy of the panel’s report so that the high court could look into ethical questions against a lawyer who represented both Wang Bo and the man who filed a complaint against the Chinese businessman.

“We will send a copy to the Supreme Court so that the high tribunal could look into what appears to be improper conduct on the part of Bryan Bantilan, one of Wang Bo’s lawyers,” Rodriguez said.

The congressman said Bantilan seemed to have violated his oath and the code of ethics for lawyers by representing Wang and a complainant in a separate estafa case.

The good government committee has invited Bantilan, Jose Chua, the complainant against Wang in a P3-million estafa case, and Prosecutor Antonio Rivera, who conducted a preliminary investigation on Wang’s deportation case on Feb. 11, to its next hearing on July 7.

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