Aquino open to have Lacson in pork barrel fund scam probe-A A +A
Thursday, August 22, 2013
(UPDATED) President Benigno Aquino III may tap former Senator Panfilo Lacson to help in the Senate investigation of the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam.
"We're open," the Chief Executive said Thursday when asked regarding the proposal of Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano to ask Lacson to handle the probe on the alleged multi-billion peso misuse of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of the lawmakers since he never touched his pork barrel during his 12-year stint in the Senate.
But Aquino said that he was still waiting on the executive order being drafted by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on the possible job that Lacson will be assuming at the executive branch after his term as senator ended last June.
He said that it was taking time to finalize the proposed EO because of so many events that took place the past days.
Aquino cited the maritime tragedy in Cebu where two vessels collided leaving some 120 people dead and missing, the massive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, and the PDAF controversy.
"I will follow up with the Executive Secretary because the proposal of Senator Lacson has been pending for quite some time," he said.
Apart from Lacson, Senator Ralph Recto proposed former Senator Joker Arroyo as an independent investigator because he never used his pork barrel throughout his career as congressman and senator from 1992 to 2013.
Opposition Senator Nancy Binay said either Lacson or Arroyo is "best suited" to head a special body to probe the reported PDAF misuse but the scope should cover both the administration of Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.
"To confine it only to the previous regime could invite comments that the probe is selective," she said.
Binay said the probe should be "full, across-the-board and multi-level" and include implementing agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, currently on leave from the Senate because of several ailments, scoffed at the idea of tapping Lacson as consultant to the blue ribbon committee, which will tackle the scam starting August 29.
"A policeman cannot be adviser to a Senate committee probing the pork barrel, because this is a question of law. He has no clue on how the law proceeds in these cases. After a cop finishes his investigation, the report is submitted to the prosecutor, not the other way around," she said.
Lacson's impartiality was also under question, Santiago said, because his son lost to the son of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. in the Cavite vice gubernatorial race last May and he is an ally of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
Revilla and Enrile are both implicated in the scam as they allegedly allowed their PDAF to be channeled to bogus non-government organizations linked to Janet Napoles, who is now a fugitive for serious illegal detention of main whistleblower into the fund mess.
Blue ribbon committee chairperson Senator Teofisto Guingona III, meanwhile, rejected Cayetano's proposal since the panel is "capable of determining the truth."
The investigation will focus on the report of the Commission on Audit (COA) that public money was used to aid questionable NGOs and other projects.
If the Senate insists on conducting its own probe, the result should be submitted to an independent panel of investigators consisting of former Supreme Court chief justices and associate justices, Santiago said.
Santiago named former Chief Justices Hilario Davide, Jr., Reynato Puno, and Artemio Panganiban, as well as Justices Ameurfina Melencio Herrera, Vicente Santiago, Consuelo Ynares Santiago (no relation), Adolf Azcuna, Flerida Ruth Romero, and other eminent retired members of the Supreme Court.
The President noted that there is already an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the pork barrel fund mess.
He also said that there is an existing anti-graft commission composed of the Office of the Ombudsman, DOJ and the COA working together on corruption issues, such as the PDAF misuse.
Aquino was referring to the Inter-agency Anti-graft and Corruption Council whose members also include the National Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Service Commission. (SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)