MS 30th Anniversary XXX

Senators debunk illegal ‘pork’ use with Napoles

THE five senators who were linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam denied allegations of irregularities in the use of their priority development assistance fund on Monday, saying that they welcome any investigation on the matter. Aside from denying the charge against them, senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada and Gringo Honasan denied knowing Janet Napoles, the owner of JLN Group of Companies, an NGO which allegedly hatched the scam that channeled the PDAFs of the five senators and 23 congressmen into “ghost” or non-existing projects. Revilla, chairman and standard-bearer of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in the 2016 presidential elections, branded the accusation against him as a “demolition job.” Benhur Luy, the whistleblower who exposed the alleged scam, said Revilla topped the list of legislators who allowed the use of his pork barrel by Napoles’ group. Napoles, owner of the JLN, is currently being investigated by the NBI. The JLN allegedly benefited from the PDAFs through the projects initiated by Napoles, which later turned out to be non-existent. The allegation, which was reported in major dailies, said that the funds from the ghost projects were split between Napoles’ firm and the legislators involved in the scam. But Revilla said the allegation was apparently linked to his reported plan to run for president in 2016. “Are they destroying my name because there were some who are pushing me in the 2016 (presidential elections?) Nonetheless, I am not surprised with this demolition job against me in the name of politics.” Revilla said the demolition job against him started during the May elections, when about 120 armed men, allegedly on orders of his political rivals allied with the administration, surrounded his house in Cavite and harassed his family. Revilla also bared that he had already been warned by someone in Malacanang that he would be a target. “This is it. This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose – to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people,” said Revilla, referring to himself and the four other accused senators, who all belong to the minority in the Senate. “Suspiciously, only non-allies of the administration are being dragged in this controversy,” he said. He challenged investigators to also scrutinize the records of the use of pork barrel of the President’s allies in the Senate. Revilla pointed out that the release of the funds of senators and congressmen are subject to existing government rules and regulations and handled by the implementing agencies and the executive branch. “Why are they destroying us with this trial by publicity? If it’s true that these allegations have been happening for the past 10 years, why did it come out only now and in the newspapers?” he asked. He said that he welcomes any investigation on the allegation, as long as it is fair and objective. Enrile, meanwhile, said he does not know Napoles and has no personal or business transactions with her and her company. He reiterated his call to the Commission on Audit to release the report of its Special Audit of the PDAF of all legislators in order to help the Department of Justice and the NBI in its probe. “From the bare allegations and claims of the affiants and the release documents provided, we now stand accused, tried and judged in the media and before the public of having pocketed public funds. Yet, we have not been given any opportunity at all by any official agency of the government to defend ourselves against these allegations in any manner consistent with justice and due process,” said Enrile. Marcos also denied knowing Napoles and said he has no dealing with Napole’s company. He added that he would fully cooperate in the investigation. Estrada, meanwhile, said he would file a resolution for a senate inquiry on the “ghost” NGOs. “I will file a resolution on that because I am innocent.” Honasan, on the other hand, said that “allegations and insinuations must be backed up by evidence in the proper court of law  subject to due process.” Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged the five senators to go on leave to erase any fear that they might use their power and resources to pressure investigators, even as Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero called for a “full blown inquiry” on the matter. “If they have delicadeza, they should go on leave immediately. This will not be investigated by the senators if they are there,” said Santiago. Escudero filed Senate Resolution Number 40, directing the blue ribbon committee to conduct an inquiry into the allegation, “not only for the representatives of the people to clarify their respective positions, if some may be involved, but to show to every Filipino as well that neither sacred cows nor the notion of an “old boys club” exists in a government working for change.” Senator Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, said that to avoid a similar incident, the pork barrel funds of congressmen and senators should either be scrapped or be limited as to its use and purpose. In a related development, the DOJ said it was placing Luy under the agency’s Witness Protection Program. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Lu and his family would be given security under WPP “as soon as possible” after he implicated five senators and 23 members of the alleged scam. De Lima, however, refused to confirm reports that several senators and congressmen were involved in the scam. “We don’t want to name names at this point. Whether these senators and congressmen were all involved or just some of them, that’s part of the investigation,” De Lima said. With Rey E. Requejo
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