PNoy: Lacson may probe pork barrel abuse

(UPDATED) President Benigno Aquino III says he is still awaiting the assessment by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa of a draft executive order that names former Sen Ping Lacson anti-corruption czar

DISGUST. This is the word President Benigno Aquino III uses to describe his impression on the Commission on Audit pork report. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (2ND UPDATE) – Former Sen Ping Lacson to probe the abuse of pork barrel?

Why not? President Benigno Aquino III said he is “open” to the idea, although he is still awaiting the assessment by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa of a draft executive order that names Lacson anti-corruption czar.

“I will follow it up with the Executive Secretary because it’s been a while, this pending proposal of Senator Lacson,” he said on Thursday, August 22.

He said “it is possible” for Lacson to probe the pork barrel scam, although he said the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other units are already working on it.

“There’s an anti-graft commission… composed of the Ombudsman, the DOJ and COA (Commission on Audit) working together,” he said. “That’s the mechanism in government.”

Aquino was referring to the The Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC), a voluntary alliance of the 3 agencies.

Reacting to the possible appointment of Lacson as lead investigator of pork barrel abuses, Sen Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said it is “legally tenable and that he does not think any laws will be violated. Findings will be recommendatory, given the powers of the Blue Ribbon Committee. The DOJ and the Ombudsman are not obliged, Angara said, to adopt these recommendations.

“Given the number of cases these two offices handle, the work of the special investigator may be useful, as far as leads are concerned, in filing cases. But these agencies will still have to do their own investigations” because the amount of evidence needed in criminal cases is different, Angara said.

IAAGCC duties

According to a statement from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson released on Thursday, the IAAGC convened two weeks ago “to discuss avenues of investigation and cooperation as regards to allegations of PDAF misuse in connection to the Napoles issue.”

The Council also has the power to create “inter-agency response teams whenever necessary to ensure speedy and effective fraud detection, investigation and prosecution of grand corruption cases.”

It added, a Special Inter-Agency Task Force would probe the pork barrel abuse, made up of “investigators, technical experts and prosecutors from the Ombudsman, as lead, the DOJ, and COA.”

The results of the Council’s probe would then forward its results “either to the Office of the Ombudsman or the DOJ, as the case may be, with respect to further preliminary investigation, criminal prosecution, disciplinary proceedings, and asset recovery.”

Draft executive order

Lacson, a former police chief, has said he submitted a draft executive order to Malacañang to ensure that the new anti-corruption agency he proposed has operational capabilities and a law enforcement arm.

In past interviews, he said that while the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan investigated and tried graft cases, there is a need for a body with strong law enforcement powers that include the entrapment of officials.

Lacson said the President agreed “in principle” to his plan but that the final design of the agency will be indicated in the signed order.

Aquino’s statements came on the heels of public outcry following a COA report that revealed widespread corruption among lawmakers, and their misuse of their pork barrel.

A day earlier, Aquino said he was “disgusted” by the report.

Aquino has said the DOJ is preparing to file cases against guilty parties, admitting that the list of lawmakers they are investigating is long. – Rappler.com