Sotto confident SC will not meddle in Calida conflict-of-interest case

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is doubting that the Supreme Court (SC) will meddle in any Senate inquiry on the allegedly questionable transactions of Solicitor-General Jose Calida's security agency with various government agencies.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel) Senate President Vicente Sotto III (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto, in a press briefing Thursday, was asked about Calida's petition and the possibility of the SC issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Senate from conducting an investigation.

In his recall, the long-time lawmaker said the High Court has never prevented the conduct of any legislative inquiry.

"I don't think it's possible...I don’t think the Supreme Court will prevent a committee from hearing, especially if it's in aid of legislation. Hindi pwede (It should not)," Sotto said.

Sotto, on the other hand, clarified that he is not fully aware of Calida's petition against the Senate hearing on the more than P261-million worth of contracts secured by his family-owned company from the government for supposed conflict of interest.

He said he would rather wait for SC to interpret and decide on Calida's contentions.

Asked on whether or not the Upper Chamber will heed should a TRO be issued in favor of the Sol-Gen, Sotto said, "We'll cross the bridge when we get there."

For now, Sotto said he would leave it up to the concerned committee chairmen to decide when to take up the contracts of Calida's security firm with the government.

Calida and his family last week sought the SC for the issuance of a TRO against Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who, they argued, "has no legal authority" to initiate and conduct investigations on the accountability of public officers.

They want the TRO to stop Trillanes, "or any person acting on his behalf," from conducting any legislative inquiry on his family's security firm.

The Senate inquiry, however, would actually be led by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon. It was initially calendared for August 16 but was cancelled due to Gordon's attendance to the Judicial and Bar Council's interview of applicants for the Chief Justice post.

The Blue Ribbon panel has yet to schedule anew its probe.

Trillanes, on Wednesday, said he will invite Calida in a separate hearing about a bill seeking to expand the definition of "conflict of interest" under the Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Trillanes chairs the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation, which was assigned as the secondary panel in the probe concerning Calida.