Pimentel Urges Treaty Ratification So RP Can Get HK Aid on 'Bribe'

Article excerpt

Byline: MARIO B. CASAYURAN

Opposition Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. said yesterday the Senate must ratify the treaty on mutual assistance on legal and criminal matters between the Philippines and Hong Kong and to reject the objections raised by administration Sen. Joker Arroyo against its ratification.

Failure of the Senate to ratify the treaty would only bolster the suspicion that the administration, with the help of its allies in the Senate, is covering up bribery scandals at all costs, Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the continued objection to the treaty which is being pushed for ratification by administration Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, means the Philippines can not get assistance from the Hong Kong government in tracking down the alleged laundering of a $2-million bribe involving former Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Hernando Perez in the Coutts Bank that supposedly came from former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez.

Jimenez, extradited to the US early this year, is serving a jail term for violation of American election laws.

In his recent controversial "the Incredible Hulk" privilege speech, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson charged that P5 million out of the P8 million donated in 1998 by Jimenez to the Arroyo's Lualhati Foundation found its way into the "Jose Pidal" account.

In another privilege speech last year, Lacson charged that Perez was given $2 million out of a $14-million slush fund from Jimenez for approval of the controversial multi-billion-peso hydroelectric project bagged by an Argentine power company.

Arroyo reportedly opposes ratification of the treaty on the ground that the Philippines should not enter into a treaty with a "non-sovereign state," Hong Kong being a province of the Peoples' Republic of China (PROC).

"The Philippines and Hong Kong are not on the same footing. The Philippines is a sovereign country. Hong Kong is not a sovereign country. It is a province of China, although autonomous in many respects," Arroyo replied to the "thoughts" of Pimentel on the matter.

Arroyo pointed out that Hong Kong has no consulate or embassy in the Philippines and that "her foreign affairs is conducted by the PROC which maintains an embassy here. …