‘Pork scammers’ won’t get help from colleagues

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014


MANILA - An administration lawmaker said congressmen tagged in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam will not get any help from their colleagues in House of Representatives unless there is a clear violation of their constitutional rights.

Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga cited the case of Pampanga Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who never received any special consideration from her colleagues as she battled plunder charges against her in connection with the alleged irregularities in the release of confidential and intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during her term as President.

Barzaga said that except for a resolution urging the Sandiganbayan to consider Arroyo's appeal for bail, the administration-dominated Congress did not make any move to help the opposition lawmaker in her legal battle.

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The lawmaker said the House leadership has adopted "hands off" policy on all criminal cases filed against it members.

"If Speaker Feliciano Belmonte cannot take custody of former President GMA (Arroyo) in order to fulfill her duties as a member of the House of Representatives, then by parity reasoning, senators who are also facing plunder cases could not be placed likewise under the custody of the Senate," Barzaga said.

The legislator made these observations as Sandiganbayan was expected to issue warrants for the arrest against of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. who are all facing plunder and graft charges over the PDAF scam.

The legislator from Cavite said that the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution dictates that there should be equal treatment of all legislators facing criminal charges without distinction.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from the House independent minority bloc decried the slow probe being conducted on political allies of President Benigno Aquino III similarly implicated in the scam.

Buhay Party-list Representative Lito Atienza and Abakada Party-list Representative Jonathan de la Cruz both pointed out Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala whose names appeared in the affidavit of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

The two lawmakers assailed the apparent refusal of Abad's office and that of the Commission on Audit (COA) to provide documents that are needed in the conduct of a fair investigation of the scam.

Atienza called for fairness in the probe being conducted by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, saying that while the investigations on the three opposition senators were conducted swiftly, the inquiry on her colleagues in the Cabinet and members of the ruling Liberal Party has been snail-paced.

Meanwhile, Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said that only the resignation or leave of absence of Abad and Alcala will ease President Aquino the burden of continuously defending them from the pork barrel scam.

"President Aquino is now having the baggage of defending them. They can spare the President from the burden, just take off the heat and give him a break… I pity the President for constantly defending his men (Secretaries Abad and Alcala) on the Pork Barrel scam which I find very unusual because normally, they should be the one taking cover for the President," Romualdez said. (Sunnex)

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