MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Effectively watering down the commission’s report, President Benigno Aquino III has pointed out an error in the Commission on Audit’s (COA) special audit on the pork barrel’s questionable disbursement.
In an exclusive interview with GMA News, Aquino said the COA made a mistake in identifying a certain “Luis Abalos” as the recipient of P20 million in pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Well, there was indeed no Luis Abalos because it should have been Benhur Abalos.
Aquino said the COA got Abalos’ first name wrong. Benhur Abalos was congressman of Mandaluyong during the 13th Congress, from 2004 to 2007. He is now mayor.
“‘Yung pangalan nu’ng isang tao na hindi miyembro nu’ng Kongreso, ngayon sabi nila sa ‘tin miyembro ng Kongreso. Mali lang ‘yung binigay na first name,” the President told GMA News in an interview aired Wednesday, August 21.
(Regarding the name of the person who wasn’t supposedly a member of Congress, they’re telling us he was actually a member of Congress. They just gave the wrong first name.)
Budget Secretary Butch Abad also confirmed to GMA News that the COA report actually referred to Benhur.
COA chair Grace Pulido Tan earlier said: “Our research shows Abalos was not a lawmaker during the 13th or 14th Congress.”
In a press conference on August 16, Tan even said: “Kung si Cardinal Tagle ay napaluha, ako ay napahagulgol (If Cardinal Tagle cried, I bawled), referring to how the Manila archbishop cried during a press conference condemning the pork barrel scam.
Earlier, Abad also admitted that one of the gravest findings cited by COA was based on a clerical error by the budget department under his predecessor.
COA said former Compostela Valley congressman and now Vice Governor Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora anomalously received P3 billion from 2007-2009.
It turned out to be the Department of Public Works and Highway’s allocation for infrastructure projects in the province and was not part of Zamora’s pork barrel.
Speaker Feliciano Belmote Jr earlier defended Zamora as an “ordinary Joe.” He previously gained fame for his simplicity. He used to bike to the House of Representatives.
Belmonte also chided the Commission on Audit (COA) for its failure to verify its data.
“It (P3 billion) is so unbelievable that COA should have checked it 10 times before making it the highlight of their report. Also, Secretary Abad should go after who is responsible for the error,” Belmonte said.
Aquino on Wednesday said he was disgusted at the COA’s findings. “The problem is you really should be angered. But as President, I cannot act on this with anger or with soreness, I always need to act accordingly,” the President said.
“There were really people who abused it,” he added. “They really pocketed the funds. They did not even let those in need taste a bit of it. Who wouldn’t be disgusted with that?”
Aquino, however, has consistently rejected the abolition of the pork barrel.
The special COA audit showed that at least 10 non-government organizations “presently linked” to fugitive Janet Lim-Napoles received P2.157 in pork barrel between 2007 and 2009.
It took the COA two years to complete the special audit. But it is being criticized for being selective, not covering the years under the Aquino administration. – Rappler.com