Bong Revilla raises doubts about COA report

Revilla's counsel says the senator has hired a handwriting expert to examine whether documents showing he endorsed dubious NGOs were forged

MANILA, Philippines – Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr has hired a handwriting expert to look into the possibility that the documents in his pork barrel allocations were falsified. 

Revilla, one of the senators tagged in the pork barrel scam, is willing to subject himself to an “impartial investigation,” said his counsel, Joel Bodegon, in a statement Wednesday, August 21.

The statement followed the discovery of a clerical error in budget documents used by state auditors, mistakenly “finding” that a congressman received P3 billion in pork barrel. 

The senator raised doubts over the Commission on Audit (COA) special report on lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which found him the senator with the highest allocations that went to dubious NGOs linked to Napoles.

READ: Bong, JPE, Jinggoy ‘suki’ to Napoles NGOs

Earlier, whistleblowers on the scam claimed their names were used in the incorporation papers of dubious NGOs controlled by “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim-Napoles without their knowledge. 

Bodegon said Revilla has requested COA to furnish them a copy of the documents used in the report. 

Another typo?

According to the report, Revilla released a total of P853 million worth of allocations from 2007 to 2009. Of the number, P422.99 million was channeled into 5 Napoles NGOs. 

Each senator gets P200 million a year in pork barrel while their counterparts in the House of Representatives receive P70 million. 

Explaining why Revilla exceeded his pork barrel allocations, Bodegon suggested the need to examine the records of the Department of Budget and Management, citing errors in the supposed P3 billion PDAF releases made by former Compostela Valley Rep Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora. 

Bodegon claimed COA has admitted to “miscomputation on PDAF allocation, even double entries, including that of Senator Revilla.” 

The Department of Budget and Management has admitted to committing a clerical error over Zamora’s PDAF records but COA has yet to issue an official statement on the matter. 

Records ‘do not show’ endorsements

Bodegon said an “initial review and verification” of Revilla’s records “do not show” that the senator endorsed any nongovernmental organization (NGO) or requested implementing agencies to transfer his PDAF to any NGO. 

Findings of the state audit show otherwise. The Commission on Audit report, released on Friday, August 16, found that Revilla, along with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen Jinggoy Estrada, channeled their pork barrel into Napoles NGOs. 

Bodegon pinned the blame on implementing agencies, saying that they should be responsible for determining the legitimacy of NGOs. 

“Indeed, even if an NGO has an endorsement from a legislator, the implementing agencies may still choose not to release the funds to the NGO, if upon its verification, it finds the NGO illegitimate or incapable of assisting the implementing agency in the project,” Bodegon said.

In an affidavit submitted to the justice department, Napoles associate turned whistleblower Benhur Luy said lawmakers allegedly get commissions from NGOs in exchange for getting PDAF allocations. 

READ: Collusion? Solons pick NGOs that get PDAF

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents show Revilla’s and Napoles’ sons are business partners. But the senator has denied knowing Napoles well. He said Napoles was only an acquaintance whom he saw “occasionally in certain social gatherings.” – Rappler.com

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