MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – “Just because there are people urging me to run for 2016, they will already ruin my name?”
Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr branded as a demolition job allegations that he topped the list of lawmakers who allegedly allowed their pork barrel to be used for ghost projects in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
An Inquirer report said he gave a syndicate access to his pork barrel in 22 instances.
In statements on Monday, July 15, Revilla and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan II and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr denied knowledge of the P10 billion scheme.
Honasan and Revilla even said the Philippine Daily Inquirer report on the scam was politically motivated and “in aid of persecution.”
The other senator named in the report, Jinggoy Estrada, refused to comment on the issue as of posting time.
In his statement, Revilla said the accusations were a continuation of the administration’s supposed efforts to harass him beginning with the midterm polls in Cavite.
“I have already been warned by someone in Malacañang that I will be targeted. This is it. This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose – to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people,” said Revilla, who has been reported to be eyeing the presidency in 2016.
“This demolition job is a sad commentary on the state of Philippine politics,” he added.
An action star-turned-politician, Revilla is the chairman of the Lakas party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He got into a word war with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), as he accused Roxas of alleged political harassment in the Cavite polls last May.
“Suspiciously, only non-allies of the administration are being dragged into this controversy. Why don’t they just open and scrutinize the records on how everyone is using the PDAF (pork barrel), even those allied with the President?”
Revilla said he is innocent, claiming he has been transparent and accountable. He supported calls for an investigation, but said it should be done fairly and objectively.
“The allocation of our funds [is] all subject to existing government rules and regulations. The release of funds [is] solely handled by the implementing agencies and the executive branch,” Revilla said.
He asked the NBI for the affidavits that the witnesses reportedly gave on the issue.
“Kung may katotohanan man ang mga affidavit, kami ay biktima rin ng anomalyang ito. Ang executive branch ang may responsibilidad na siguruhing sa tama napupunta ang mga pondo ng pamahalaan.” (If the affidavits are true, we are victims of this anomaly, too. The executive branch has the responsibility to ensure that funds go to their intended use.)
The pork barrel is officially called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Each senator is allotted 200 million in PDAF every year to fund projects for their constituents. These projects are in the form of infrastructure, health, education and social aid packages. Congressmen get a pork barrel of P70 million per year.
‘Trial by publicity’
Both Revilla and Honasan questioned what they call a trial by publicity.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Honasan said the allegations are “a follow through” of reports that came out during the campaign period that he used his pork barrel for bogus NGOs.
Honasan ran and was re-elected as a candidate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
“What I wonder is why this was done through media, not present the evidence in the proper mechanism: NBI, DOJ or the courts so that we will not go through a recurring, painful process of trial by publicity,” Honasan said.
The report said Honasan had the lowest amount of pork barrel funds used among the senators, about P15 million.
Honasan said his office approved the release of pork barrel for a livelihood program for widows and orphans of policemen and the military, as requested by the local governments of Lanao del Sur and Isabela province.
“I have no way of authenticating if these foundations or entities registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission are bona fide. The entire amount allocated for that has not been released, the alleged P15 million. I do not even know if it reached P15 million.”
As the principal sponsor of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, Honasan said he supports transparency and is open to an investigation.
Yet he said he will not take a leave of absence until the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) make public their records to trace the sources and recipients of the funds.
“So what I’m saying is let the axe fall where it will but I am going to recommend that if this develops into a full-blown investigation, that all records of DBM be made public, AMLC, let’s connect this all. Which implementing agency received the funds, which accredited agency? Even the records of the NGOs, open them all.”
‘Marcos also looking into 2016 angle’
Marcos, who is also rumored to be a presidential aspirant, said he does not know Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the scam.
“I have never spoken to her and so I have had no personal dealings with her. However, I am more than eager to fully cooperate in the investigation and in any other similar efforts that will reveal the truth on this matter,” Marcos said in a statement.
In a separate statement on his Facebook page, Marcos said it is the DBM and implementing government agencies’ responsibility to check the implementation of PDAF-funded projects.
“A Senator’s role in this process is merely to identify the projects to be funded, the amount allocated to these projects as well as the beneficiary LGUs,” Marcos said.
“I am eager to cooperate with any investigation, which will reveal the truth of this matter. I am also exploring the possibility that there may be a political angle to all this in light of the upcoming Presidential elections in 2016.”
Marcos is a member of former Sen Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party.
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago has called on President Benigno Aquino III to create an independent panel of prosecutors to probe the issue.
She said the senators named in the report must take a leave of absence while the investigation is ongoing. – Rappler.com