THE fight against corruption must “transcend” party lines, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III yesterday said as he supports the move of Malacañang giving the National Bureau of Investigation a free hand to conduct a thorough probe of the pork barrel scandal.
He also noted that the Palace has reminded the NBI to observe discipline among its ranks to prevent “leakages by anonymous sources” in the ongoing investigation so as not to destroy reputations of some people, including some senators and representatives.
“Let the hammer fall where it is due,” Pimentel said as he shrugged off a report which tried to link the use of his pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the controversy.
He maintained that “not a single centavo” of his PDAF went to any of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foundations being alleged to be fronts in the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles. “My list of PDAF projects is open to the public for scrutiny. I, therefore, welcome any and all investigations on this matter,” said Pimentel.
Sen.Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who earlier filed a resolution seeking a probe into the pork barrel scam, has clarified that it was not his intention to probe his fellow senators’ use of their respective PDAF. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III reportedly allocated some of their PDAF to “ghost” foundations allegedly created by businesswoman Napoles. They all denied the allegation.
“Hindi namin layunin na imbestigahan ang isa’t isa. Hindi ‘yon ang tema ng aking nai-file na resolusyon. Layunin ko linisin ang institusyon (at) huwag palabasing old boys’ club kami, na tahimik kami sa mga isyu tulad nito,” Escudero said in a media forum.
“Nalungkot lang din ako kasi matapos ang apat o limang araw na nasa headline ng mga pahayagan ‘yan, ni ha , ni ho, walang nagsasalita dito sa Senado o sa Kamara noon. Nakakalungkot naman ‘yon. Pinag-uusapan na ng lahat kami dito na kinatawan ng bayan ni hindi pinag-uusapan. Baka lumabas tuloy na lahat kami ay damay dito. Hindi ko sinasabing guilty na agad ‘yung mga binanggit na pangalan, pagkakataon din ito para sa kanila na magpaliwanag at ibigay ang panig nila,” he said.
He is waiting for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee headed by Sen.Teofisto “TG” Guingona II to schedule the inquiry into the matter. He wanted to invite to the public hearing Napoles who allegedly masterminded the creation of fake non-government organizations (NGOs) whose “operation” were supposedly funded by the pork barrel fund of some members of Congress.
Asked to comment on the move of the House of Representatives to conduct its own inquiry as well as its plan to invite the senators linked to the fund scam, Escudero said: “Hindi p’wede ‘yon dahil sa inter-chamber courtesy maliban na lamang kung boluntaryo mag-aatend ang isang senador doon. I think that only happened once here or twice in the Senate na may nag-attend ng congressman dito. That was on their own volition. Hindi p’wedeng i-compel by compulsory process ang pag-attend ng congressman dito sa Senado o ng senador sa Kongreso.”
Benjamin Luy, Napoles’ former assistant, had revealed her alleged illegal activities. “Iyon lang naman ang lumalabas na basehan ngayon, ‘yung testigo (Luy) na hawak ng NBI at hawak ng DoJ sa ngayon,” Escudero said.
“Desisyon ng mayoriya kung ano ang gagawin nila roon. Hindi ko inatras ang resolusyon, nakabinbin at pending ‘yon. Alam n’yo naman sa Senado nasa kamay ng chairman ang pag-schedule ng anumang resolusyon kung ano ang uunahin n’ya roon,” he said.
“Pagkakataon ito para sa akin na makapagpaliwanag ‘yung miyembro ng Senado na inakusahan. Pagkakataon din ito na pangalanan ng kung sino mang testigo kung sino lamang ang involved para naman hindi naman damay lahat, hindi yung kasali lahat, hindi yung buong institusyon ay damay at parang takot kaming lahat buksan ito dahil tila damay kaming lahat dito,” he added.
Alcala inquiry urged
Sen. JV Ejercito wants Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to undergo Senate inquiry after his name was linked to the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Atty. Levito Baligod, lawyer of whistleblower Benhur Luy, has said that Alcala allegedly endorsed the release of the pork barrel of some lawmakers to the fake agency of Janet Lim-Napoles.
But Ejercito was wondering why only the opposition lawmakers were the only ones pinned down in the investigation and those known to be close allies of the Aquino government, like Alcala, were not called to the inquiry by the Senate whose majority members are known allies of President Aquino.
”Kung nais niyang malinis ang pangalan niya (Alcala), humarap siya sa Senado at pabulaanan ang akusasyon sa kanya,” the senator from San Juan said.
He added that he also want to look into reports that Alcala is allegedly using a certain “Boyet Evangelista” as “bagman” to ask for advance commission from contractors who were given projects by the DA.