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‘Impeach COA chief’

Solon dares Tan to apologize for erroneous report on pork An opposition lawmaker on Saturday threatened to file an impeachment case against Commission on Audit chairman Grace Pulido-Tan and CoA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza should they fail to publicly apologize for the errors in the special audit report of legislators’ priority development assistance fund (Pdaf). Rep. Jonathan  Dela Cruz of Abakada party-list said the CoA officials should own up to their mistakes in coming out with the erroneous report that had embarrassed former Rep. Manuel Zamora of Compostela Valley and other congressmen. “It is only proper for CoA chairman Pulido-Tan to apologize publicly for the irreparable damage she had caused to members of Congress and to the institution,” said De la Cruz, a member of the Third Force in the House of Representatives led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. For his part, Romualdez warned that Pulido-Tan should not wait for legislators to initiate an impeachment complaint against her. “You do not go as the chair of the COA in a press conference and say kahindik hindik ang nangyari dito, paiyak iyak pa siya,” Romualdez said. (What happened here was horrible. It makes you want to cry.) “Nakakaiyak naman, kahindik hindik naman ang pagkakamali nya  because sinira nya ang isang tao. Sinira nya ang isang tao, bigla ay hindi pala,” Romualdez said. Indeed, it makes you want to cry; they made a horrible mistake. |And Because of their mistake, a person was wronged.) Romualdez earlier demanded the resignation of Pulido-Tan. As this developed, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. declared on Saturday that he would not attend the investigation being conducted Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam. Andaya, the former Budget Secretary, said that “there are other avenues” if there is anything to shed light on the Commission on Audit (CoA) special audit on disbursements of legislators’ pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009 – the period when Andaya was the Budget chief. “I don’t need to be there to explain,” Andaya said. The Senate panel began Thursday its hearing on the issue, with CoA chairperson Pulido-Tan as resource person. Judging from the preliminary hearing, Andaya said:  “I think they (the hearing) were able to explain the role of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), how it gets to the implementing agency. It clears up the air on the role of each department and the flow...how it gets to certain NGOs have been cleared up.” House members have said that senators cannot compel congressmen being the subject of their investigation and vice versa out of the so-called tradition of ‘inter-parliamentary courtesy.’ House Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora said that if ever a congressman who is the subject of a Senate inquiry will attend the hearing, “it should be voluntary.” House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) agreed with Andaya that there are other venues where congressmen involved in the controversy can explain their side and clear their names. “Inter- parliamentary courtesy should be observed,” Tugna said. Andaya, meanwhile, said that congressmen are now in the process of sitting with their respective constituents to explain and educate them on the stricter menu to be adopted by the Budget department in the use of the new congressional allocations. He agreed with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad that the P25.2 billion allocation to priority Pdaf under the proposed 2014 national budget will remain in the budget, but no longer under the “PDAF item.” “Tama yung sabi ni Secretary (Butch) Abad, ilalagay na sa departments, ang mag-iimplement na ,departments, even for this year. Klarong klaro naman kung gagawin for 2014 gawin na rin this year. I think Congress will exercise self- restraint at susundan ang kumpas. Ang kailangan dito is restraint in choosing only basic projects,” Andaya said. Meanwhile, De la Cruz said what the CoA released was not an audit report, but a mere list. He added that Mendoza, who supposedly headed the audit team that work on the special audit, should also be held accountable for the report. Mendoza became famous and subsequently appointed as CoA commissioner after her controversial testimony before Congress in 2011 on her auditing of the alleged misuse of military funds. A COA special audit of the pork barrel releases between 2007 and 2009 indicated that Zamora got P3.114 billion of pork barrel for infrastructure projects and 94.6 million for non-infra projects. Pulido-Tan went to media for the audit report without double-checking the entries, which the Budget department had earlier admitted “clerical errors’ on it. Romualdez reminded that “the COA should not have come out with any kind of release much less come out with an incomplete press release.”
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