4 senators gave P1 billion to Napoles NGOs-A A +A
Thursday, August 29, 2013
MANILA -- More than P1 billion was funneled by four senators to eight non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to businesswoman Janet Napoles, Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan told the Senate inquiry on the alleged pork barrel scam Thursday.
The senators are Juan Ponce Enrile (P332.7 million), Gregorio Honasan II (P14.55 million), Ramon Revilla Jr. (P483.49 million), and Jinggoy Estrada (P262.575 million), who all denied the allegations.
The NGOs involved, meanwhile, are Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI), Agrikultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation (APMFI), Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development (CARED) Foundation, and Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI).
Also in the list provided by Tan are People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation (POPDFI), Philippine Agri and Social Development Foundation Inc., Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI).
Tan said the senators signed in confirmation for the release of the funds.
"We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We need to find the flaws in the system and find appropriate measures to end misuse of public funds," said Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.
The committee then required witnesses to submit all the documents that will prove the legislators' participation in endorsing NGOs as beneficiaries of government funds during its probe on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
"We are trying to trace where in the process of releasing the PDAF does the opportunity to divert the fund comes in. The chain of procedures in the release of the PDAF is implemented to ensure accountability. We learned today that there are instances where key procedures where bypassed to ensure that specific NGOs be the beneficiary of the PDAF. We must determine whether this action is illegal. It may be irregular, but we must determine whether the law was violated," Guingona said.
In a flowchart during the hearing, Guingona said legislators should submit to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) their recommendation of allotment of PDAF.
The DBM must then submit a Special Allotment Release Order to a government implementing agency, which will submit the project for bidding.
During the hearing, Tan said "certain legislators would issue endorsement letters directly to the implementing agencies, ordering the respective agency to allot funds to specific NGOs."
"In our opinion, wala kami nakitang batas o ordinansa na nagbibigay authorization para sa paglipat ng pondo from government agency to private corporations like NGOs," she said.
Tan said two other senators had questionable transactions not related to the misuse of PDAF. The next hearing is set on September 5.
Meanwhile, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago opposed the idea of making Napoles a state witness on the scam.
"I am disgusted, sickened by talks of making Ms. Janet Napoles a state witness," Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said. "I would like to congratulate the President for his assurance of due process.
“Ms. Napoles' surrender is important. However, I find talks of her becoming a state witness sickening," he said.
Cayetano said Napoles has been in business since 2004, during the time of the fertilizer fund scam in the Department of Agriculture.
"She has been tagged as one of those involved so how was she able to get projects from 2007 to 2009? The fertilizer fund scam has been investigated, how is it that she is so powerful that she was still able to secure project funding from lawmakers' PDAF?” he said.
"We should get the testimony from her but not in exchange for becoming a state witness which is unnecessary. Otherwise, how will we hold accountable individuals abusing government funds if we will always offer this?" he added.
Cayetano noted "there has to be an absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested for him or her to be considered as state witness."
"Prove first that she will play a vital role in this investigation. Right now we need to prosecute her, not get information from her. There should be no special treatment," he said.
Santiago, a former trial court judge, said Napoles "should not be allowed to escape prosecution by the expedient of turning state witness." (CPT/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)