House, Senate differ in decision over pork barrel probe-A A +A
Thursday, August 22, 2013
THE Senate is set to start its investigation of the controversial priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or the so-called pork barrel on August 29 but the House of Representatives remains cold about the issue.
The pork barrel of lawmakers should be abolished, Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano said Wednesday.
He also suggested that former senator and former Philippine National Police chief Ping Lacson should head the probe of the fund scandal.
Cayetano said he will file a resolution directing the Blue Ribbon committee to appoint Lacson as its "independent investigator of the PDAF scam" and another resolution to abolish the pork barrel.
"These two measures are drastic but necessary ways to ensure that the benefits of our country's economic growth and the people's money are not hijacked by a few elites but would go directly to those people who have been left behind," he said.
"Blue Ribbon Committee needs an independent and credible special investigator who can assist it to ferret out the truth, pursue leads, and find evidence so that the guilty can be charged and the innocent can clear their names, while maintaining its credibility and impartiality. Senator Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson is the best person to conduct the investigation because of his impeccable record against corruption and his unwavering stand against the pork barrel," he said.
Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday said she "fully support PNoy's (President Aquino's) decision to suspend PDAF as long as it's not selective at dapat lahat—pati na yung mga kaalyado ng administrasyon. Malaking bagay rin na maipasa na kaagad ang FOI bill to help ensure transparency in government."
For her part, the neophyte senator said she won't use her PDAF "until safeguards are in place to shield it from misuse and abuse."
The majority senators on Tuesday announced that they will not use their pork barrel funds until the Executive department issues or implements strict guidelines on its use.
The Blue Ribbon committee has invited Commission on Audit Commissioner Grace Pulido Tan to testify.
In a statement, the committee's head Senator Teofisto Guingona said: "I refer to the recent disclosure by the Commission on Audit (COA) of its own findings regarding the alleged misuse of the PDAF. The COA findings can now serve as a basis as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to begin its probe."
"Now that COA has completed its Special Audit on the PDAF from 2007 to 2009, it is time for the Senate, through its Blue Ribbon committee to conduct public hearings, in aid of legislation, on the utilization of the PDAF, to review the need to fund the PDAF in 2014 and beyond and to immediately recommend the adoption of strict guidelines in the use of the PDAF, among others. It is time our people are informed about the details of that special audit," Senate President Fraklin Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao and Cebu Representative Gwendolyn Garcia think a House probe on the pork barrel scam is not a good idea as some of its incumbent members have been dragged to the issue.
"The result will be mistrusted by the public. I would prefer the Ombudsman to do the investigation. After all, the results of any investigation by Congress and the Senate will ultimately land at the desk of the Ombudsman for administrative and criminal investigation and prosecution, if merited," Aggabao said in a text message.
Garcia echoed the sentiment of Aggabao, saying that a House-initiated investigation "may have problems of credibility as far as the public is concerned."
Earlier this week, blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III said the recent special report of the Commission on Audit (COA) where it said that some P6.156 billion in pork barrel funds were channeled to questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) by close to 200 lawmakers from 2007 to 2009 will be the basis of their investigation.
Based on the same report, fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly has 10 dubious NGOs, which received P2.157 billion during the audit period.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. earlier rejected calls for the House of Representatives to conduct its own probe despite a resolution filed by the House minority bloc urging the committees on good government and public accountability, and ethics and privileges to conduct a joint investigation on the pork scam.
Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, one of the authors of the said resolution, said the House of Representatives should pursue its own probe.
Colmenares also called on the House leadership to expedite discussions on their party-list's proposal prohibiting the President from providing a budgetary item or including the PDAF in the proposed budget submitted yearly to Congress.
Aside from the legislators' pork barrel, the bill shall also abolish the Presidential pork barrel funds, such as the President’s Social Fund sourced from revenue-generating agencies.
"The bill to abolish pork was filed more than a month ago," the party-list lawmaker noted.
The approval of pork-funded projects was suspended by the Department of Budget and Management pending the conclusion of the investigation conducted by government authorities. (CPT, Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)