The issue on jueteng took yet another twist Wednesday when Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago challenged Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson to a televised debate, a day after the latter filed graft charges against the feisty lawmaker at the Office of the Ombudsman.
"He scares a lot of people because of his alleged tendency to violence. I wish I could challenge him to a duel, but that is a crime under the Penal Code. So instead, I challenge him to a debate on any of the major TV channels," Santiago said in a statement.
Santiago's challenge came after Singson filed on Tuesday a graft complaint against the senator, accusing her of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law when she identified him as a jueteng operator in a privilege speech last week.
Singson has since denied Santiago's allegation. (See: Singson, Atong Ang deny role in jueteng operations)
At the same time, Singson said Santiago should face criminal charges for her alleged unexplained wealth; obstructing the probe of her son’s death; and for appointing her relatives as government officials.
"Nobody is above the law... hindi lisensya yung sinasabi niya na senador siya, pwede na siyang manira (being a senator is not a license to malign somebody)," Singson said in a television interview Tuesday.
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But Santiago stressed that the "voluminous" charges filed by Singson were "virtual carbon copies" of the several charges filed against her when she sought reelection last May.
"Those same charges have already been dismissed separately by the Ombudsman, by the Supreme Court two times, and by the Comelec. All the cases were handled by the same discredited lawyer who has managed to lose all his four cases against me," she said.
Santiago was referring to the failed disbarment cases filed against her by lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan, who is coincidentally the lawyer of Singson in the Ombudsman case.
Ombudsman has no jurisdiction?
At the same time, Santiago mocked Singson for allegedly glossing over the fact that the Office of the Ombudsman had earlier ruled that they do not have jurisdication over members of Congress.
"Singson is sabit na naman (Singson failed again), meaning he has again broken the law. The Ombudsman herself ruled that she has no jurisdiction over a senator," she said.
She also said persecuting her for a privilege speech is unconstitutional. "The Constitution provides for parliamentary immunity, meaning that a senator cannot be held liable in any other place outside of the Senate," she said.
Santiago earlier claimed that she has been receiving "implied" death threats because of her jueteng expose.
She, however, expressed readiness to face her supposed foes. "All my enemies out there, feel free to shoot me – preferably in the back. But do it after the gun ban," she joked.
Santiago is on sick leave due to health reasons but said she might come back to the Senate after a month. When she does, Santiago said she might deliver a privilege speech on Singson and his alleged criminal liablities.
Senate Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada had earlier said that he believes Singson is a jueteng operator as alleged by Santiago.
He likewise expressed disbelief that Singson would say that he does not know how to operate jueteng. "Talaga lang, ha. Tell that to the marines. Lokohin niya ang lelong niya (Really? Tell that to the marines. He can't fool me)," he said.
Singson was the one who blew the whistle on the alleged involvement of former President Joseph Estrada in the illegal numbers game. The expose resulted in the impeachment of Estrada that culminated in his resignation in January 2001 when the military leadership withdrew its support from him. — RSJ, GMANews.TV
Reposted From GMA News.TV