Aquino allies won’t be spared from pork barrel probe-A A +A
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
LAWMAKERS allied with President Benigno Aquino III will not be treated with kid gloves by a super anti-graft body tasked to investigate the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds.
Speaking at a news conference, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Tuesday the revitalized Inter-Agency Anti Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) will not consider party lines in its probe.
"We don't have any record of being tools of anybody - to spare this fellow or spare that fellow or make it hard for the other fellow. So we assure you of the credibility of the result of the investigation,” she said.
The IAAGCC will use as reference the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the use of priority development assistance fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009, where Aquino allies like House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and An Waray Representative Florencio Noel are linked to questionable transactions.
Morales and fellow IAAGCC member Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, maintained that the COA report will not be the basis for the filing of cases as they have yet to unearth documentary evidence.
The Ombudsman said the COA report alone had a "room-full" of documents and "we need to strategize how we will approach the case in such a way that we can file a case, maybe even two or three, depending on the complexity of the issues."
COA Chairperson Grace Tan is also part of the IAAGCC, whose probe results will be forwarded either to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice for further preliminary investigation, criminal prosecution, disciplinary proceedings, and asset recovery.
Formed in 1997, the IAAGCC created special inter-agency task forces for graft cases involving fraudulent transactions with "national impact," amount worth P50 million or higher and ranking government officials with the position of bureau directors or higher.
Five "high profile" cases not necessarily related to the pork barrel scam are currently undergoing preliminary investigation by the IAAGCC, which reportedly came back to life after Morales took over as Ombudsman in 2011, said Assistant Ombudsman Evelyn Baliton.
De Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is completing documentary evidence against people including lawmakers involved in the pork barrel-funded ghost projects of dubious non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to fugitive businesswoman Janet Napoles.
Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim have yet to be found for alleged illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Meanwhile, Morales asked the public to be patient as the quest for justice should not be done at the expense of due process.
After receiving the NBI complaint, perhaps in one or two weeks, the Ombudsman will conduct a preliminary investigation to give respondents a chance to refute whatever evidence is shown to them.
Probable cause has to be established before pursuing the case before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman is also investigating the scam as Morales asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Statistics Office (NSO) for help.
The DBM and AMLC have yet to reply to the Ombudsman's requests.
On Monday, thousands of Filipinos held protests around the world calling on President Benigno Aquino III to scrap the corrupt-laden PDAF, which will be itemized in the national budget starting next year. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)