Binay 'aides,' Antonio Tiu vow to testify at Senate probe

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee has halted the enforcement of an arrest order against 4 personalities linked to Vice President Jejomar Binay after they offered to testify in the hearings on corruption allegations against the top Philippine official.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III said on Wednesday, May 20, that Danilo Villas, Vissia Marie Aldon, and Makati assistant city engineer Line dela Peña sent separate letters to him after the Senate ordered their arrest for continually snubbing the hearings despite the issuance of valid subpoena orders.

"They have manifested that they are willing to appear in subsequent hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee," Guingona said.

He added, "Therefore, as chairman, I am giving the 3 persons so named up to Monday to appear before Office of the Senate Blue Ribbon and make a verbal and written pledge that they shall participate in subsequent Blue Ribbon hearings."

Guingona ordered the Senate sergeant-at-arms to hold in abeyance the arrest of the 3 until Monday.

Later, businessman Antonio Tiu made the same appeal and pledge. He was also given until Monday to make a verbal and official pledge.

In a motion for reconsideration dated May 20, James and wife Anne Lorraine Tiu, the businessman's brother and sister-in-law, urged the Senate committee to recall and cancel the contempt and arrest orders against them.

The Tiu couple, however, did not indicate their willingness to attend the next Senate hearing.

"Arrest orders for James Tiu & Anne Lorraine stay due to their failure to manifest that they will attend the next Blue Ribbon hearing," Guingona tweeted.

In separate letters to Guingona dated May 18, Aldon and Dela Peña asked for reconsideration of the Senate order, and promised to themselves available in future hearings.

They also cited the reasons for not appearing at the Senate hearings – Aldon said she had "unstable health" while Dela Peña cited a hectic schedule.

'Warranted reversal'

In a 30-page motion for reconsideration dated May 19, but received by the Senate committee the following day, Tiu argued that the reversal of his contempt order is “warranted” and asked for a suspension of the implementation of the arrest order pending the resolution of his motion.

Tiu asked the committee to “take a second hard look on the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the Contempt Order” against him.

“Nevertheless, the undersigned, as a sign of utmost good faith, hereby manifests his willingness to attend the Senate investigation hearing scheduled on 28 May 2015,” the businessman said.

In an interview with Rappler on Monday, May 18, Tiu had criticized the Senate for citing him in contempt over his non-appearance at its hearings even if “every subpoena was answered appropriately and represented by the lawyer.”

Tiu called the Senate's actions as "funny" and "baseless" in that interview, but said then that even if does not know the "logic"of the move, he would appear at the hearings. (READ: Antonio Tiu to Senate: Desperate to see me? I'll go)

In a letter to Guingona and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee,dated May 19, University of Makati president Tomas Lopez Jr reiterated, “I hereby confirm, barring any unforseen event/circumstance that may prevent me from appearing in the Senate, my willingness to attend future proceedings of the sub-committee should by presence be required.”

Lopez also thanked Pimentel and Guingona for recommending the withdrawal of his contempt citation, and its approval, respectively.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday, May 19, signed the detention and arrest order against 14 people linked to the Vice President including his financial adviser Gerardo Limlingan and Tiu.

Villas and Aldon are among the 14. The Senate had earlier upheld its previous order to cite in contempt and arrest Binay's longtime secretary and another alleged dummy, Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy, Dela Peña, and Bernadette Portollano, corporate secretary of Omni Security.

Drilon said he signed the order, upon the recommendation of the Senate blue ribbon committee, because of the individuals' "repeated refusal to appear before the committee investigating the questionable transactions involving the construction of various government projects, which allegedly involved Vice President Jejomar Binay and Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay." – with a report from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com