De Lima hits Calida’s arrogance in refusing to attend Senate probe

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida’s arrogance in refusing to attend a Senate inquiry into the multi-million deals his family-own security firm entered with government agencies.

De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said Calida is not exempted from being probed by the Senate in the latter’s exercise of its oversight power over alleged favored contracts with government.

“Mr. Calida has the constitutional obligation to personally appear before the Senate to answer questions about his supposed conflict of interest for bagging fat government contracts for security agency his family owns,” she said.

“Refusing to attend the Senate hearings about his family’s security firm is showing an outright disrespect of the Senate and its rules. Just because he is a Solicitor General doesn’t exempt him from public scrutiny,” she added.

Calida’s security firm, Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc., reportedly won at least 10 government contracts between August 2016 and January 2018.

Two of these contracts amounting to P12.4 million were with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which prepares the budget of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Although Calida has denied any conflict of interest, documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission showed he owned 60% of shares in the company as of Sept. 29, 2016, or two months since he became Solicitor General.

As early as May 30, De Lima and other members of the Senate minority bloc filed Senate Resolution 760 seeking to inquire into Calida’s alleged conflict of interest for securing government contracts for his security company.

It was only recently, through the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation chaired by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, that Calida was sent a summon to appear in the hearings on the Calida family’s security agency., but to no avail.

Through a letter sent to his legal counsel, Jose Bernas, Calida insisted he would not attend the Senate hearings due to his pending petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop the Senate from conducting its inquiry.

If Calida is not guilty of violating the Constitution to fulfill his personal agenda, De Lima pointed out that he should not be afraid to attend and probed during the course of the Senate hearings.

“Calida’s arrogance in refusing to attend the Senate hearings is his other way of saying that he is guilty of corruption anomaly, in that he is the majority stockholder of a security agency that has bagged multiple government contracts,” she said.

“After all, if Calida has nothing to hide, he should not be afraid to attend the hearings and answer questions from the good chair,” she added.

The Senator from Bicol said Calida should not be allowed to get away with his crime which normalizes thievery and promotes corruption in public service, noting, “when you and your family are profiting from the government, clearly, there is a conflict of interest.”

Mr. Duterte recently confirmed that Calida was behind the review of the Trillanes’ amnesty, which resulted in the issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 572 voiding the amnesty granted him in 2010. Trillanes has suspected that Calida made the move to stop the ongoing Senate investigation.

Last May, De Lima backed mounting calls by her colleagues and some other quarters for Calida to vacate immediately his post as the government’s chief legal counsel because of corruption anomaly.

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