A CATHOLIC Church leader added his voice Tuesday to the growing number of people calling for Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to resign after he was tagged by the accused mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim Napoles, of being her mentor in using bogus non-government organizations to steal billions in government funds.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani called on Abad to step down, also because his name was included in the deleted computer files of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, who once worked for Napoles.
Bacani said the allegations linking Abad to the pork barrel scam had enough substance.
“Abad must resign from his post if he is not involved in the scam to clear his name,” Bacani said in an interview over the Church-owned Radio Veritas.
The bishop added that he saw no conspiracy to link Abad to the scam because Napoles and Luy were not on good terms.
Bacani, a member of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, also slammed nepotism in government, after it was revealed that there are 11 Abads – including the Budget secretary – in public office, including two of them in President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet.
“That’s like having a dynasty in the Executive branch. That’s not good. The image that comes to mind is one with tentacles. I would advice Abad to resign, show that he is not greedy for the position. After all, somebody can take his place,” Bacani said.
“Abad should step down, even though the investigation is still pending. Both Napoles and Luy included him in their lists, so I don’t think there was a conspiracy among the two,” the bishop added.
He said it was time the government restored the public’s trust in its officials.
The Palace has defended Abad, saying some people are just using him to get at the President.
Abad has denied any wrongdoing.
In the House, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez urged Abad to take a leave in light of the controversy hounding him.
Romualdez also demanded for the record of disbursements under Abad’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), saying the people have a right to know what happened to their money.
He said the independent minority bloc that he leads would continue to press for the release of the DAP details.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the bloc, also urged Abad to take a leave, given the gravity of the allegations against him.
De la Cruz echoed Romualdez’s call for Abad and some other members of the Aquino Cabinet to either resign or take a leave of absence based on a “moral compass.”
This call was supported by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvetre Bello III.
“Personally, I don’t believe Secretary Abad has any involvement in the PDAF scam. However, out of delicadeza and to take away the heat from the President, he should consider going on leave. This will dispel any suspicion that he will use his position to cover any misdeed,” Bello said.
But Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the House minority, said if Abad resigns, then everybody else named in the Napoles mess should also quit.
Anti-pork barrel groups also pressed for Abad’s resignation, however.
Argee Guevarra, 6.12.14 Coalition spokesman and #ScrapPork Network convenor, said Abad must step down immediately after Napoles linked him to the scam.
Failing this, a preventive suspension would allay fears of a cover-up and pave the way for a serious investigation, he said.
On Independence Day, anti-pork barrel groups are expected to gather at the Bonfiacio Shrine in Manila to demand that the President not spare his allies – Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva – from an investigation into their possible involvement in the pork barrel fund mess.
A clamor for the Cabinet officials’ resignation would be a highlight of their protest rally, he added.
The opposition United Nationalist Alliance earlier criticized the Aquino administration for having 11 members of the Abad family in government positions, including two key members of the Cabinet.
Abad’s daughter Julia heads the Presidential Management Staff, which controls the schedule of the President.
Abad’s wife, Henedina is the representative of the lone district of their home province, Batanes, and is vice chairman of the powerful appropriations committee in the House.
Other relatives of Abad in government include his first cousins Anastacio Barsana (mayor of Ivana, Batanes), Judge Ramon Barona (Basco, Batanes RTC), and bailiff Fernando Barona in the Ivana Metropolitan Trial Court.
The four others are niece Myla Pisig at the House of Representatives, nephew Marco Abad who works at Henedina’s office, also in the House; and nephews Parish Pisig, an employee of the Philippine National Oil Co. and John Abad, an employee at Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
Also on Tuesday, Senate President Franklin Drilon, like Abad a member of the Liberal Party, said the attacks on Abad had to do with politics and the 2016 elections.
With Rio N. Araja and Joel E. Zurbano
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