CELEBRATING THE SENATE’S 97th ANNIVERSARY. Senate President Franklin M. Drilon addresses Senate officials and employees during the Senate’s flag raising ceremony Monday, October 21. Drilon took the opportunity to thank everyone for what he calls a “selfless act” in deciding to forego plans to celebrate the annual Christmas Party in favor of donating the funds to the victims of recent calamities that struck Visayas and Mindanao. The Senate, which is also celebrating its 97th Anniversary, has also decided to allocate the budget for the anniversary to the victims of the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu. (MNS photo)

CELEBRATING THE SENATE’S 97th ANNIVERSARY. Senate President Franklin M. Drilon addresses Senate officials and employees during the Senate’s flag raising ceremony Monday, October 21. Drilon took the opportunity to thank everyone for what he calls a “selfless act” in deciding to forego plans to celebrate the annual Christmas Party in favor of donating the funds to the victims of recent calamities that struck Visayas and Mindanao. The Senate, which is also celebrating its 97th Anniversary, has also decided to allocate the budget for the anniversary to the victims of the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The request of a former Iloilo representative to testify against Senate President Franklin Drilon in the probe on the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) has been granted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday but he will have to wait.

At the start of the Senate hearing on the alleged overpriced Iloilo Convention Center, Senator Teofisto Guingona III said Augusto Syjuco Jr. will be invited after they have finished hearing the allegations of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada.

“Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has written me with regards to the request of Mr. Syjuco. Mr. Syjuco has also written me for him to be invited as resource person. In the interest of transparency, we are going to invite Mr. Syjuco after we have finished hearing the allegations of Mr. Mejorada,” Guingona said.

In an interview before the start of the hearing, Syjuco said the integrity of the hearing will depend on whether he and other accusers will be allowed to testify before the committee.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday Syjuco wrote her asking for her help to have him invited to the Senate probe.

Syjuco’s letter to Santiago came with an attached open letter to all senators in which Syjuco charged Drilon “with the overprice of some P5 billion of certain Iloilo public works projects, and with beneficial ownership of a Forbes Park home since 2004.”

Drilon, who is facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the project, on Thursday addressed the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and denied involvement in alleged anomalies related to building the ICC.

‘Old and recycled lies’

In a press statement earlier in the day, Drilon’s chief of staff Renato Bantug Jr said Syjuco’s allegations have long been debunked.

“They are old and recycled lies that Syjuco (has) been peddling again and again. Syjuco is fond of calling attention to himself. It is obvious he is rehashing old fabrications to get a piece of the spotlight,” he said.

“If Syjuco can definitely prove that Senator Drilon owns a mansion in Forbes Park, he can have it,” Bantug added.

He said Syjuco, who is out on bail, having been the subject of various graft cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayan, should instead face and answer the charges against him in connection with anomalous transactions and overpricing of equipment during his stint at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. (MNS)