COA: 2 more senators linked to pork scam

The COA head refuses to name names pending the release of the commission's next report

WON'T NAME NAMES. COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan won't name the two senators named in the commission's next report

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – Expect more names to come out when the Commission on Audit (COA) releases its next report. 

On the first day of the Senate probe into the pork barrel scam Thursday, August 29, COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan revealed two more senators were found to have misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Details will be included in an upcoming agency-specific audit report on the Philippine Forest Corp (Phil Forest), a government-controlled corporation, she said.

Asked to identify the senators, Tan declined pending the release of the report. In a report it released two weeks ago, Tan identified 192 solons in the misuse of the pork barrel. Looking into senators’ fund releases from 2007 to 2009, COA found that allocations under the names of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada repeatedly went to 3 to 8 NGOs that Napoles runs either directly or through dummies.

READ: Bong, JPE, JInggoy ‘suki’ to Napoles NGOS 

Senate President Franklin Drilon pressed Tan to name names, saying it was unfair for all those inside the Senate hall to be a suspect. 

Tan maintained she could not do so due to protocol but she provided hints on who they are.

“Would it be sufficient to say for now to say that the two are not in this hall right?” Tan said. 

Other senators present at the hearing include: Senate Blue Ribbon chair TG Guingona, Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, senators Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, JV Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, Koko Pimentel, Grace Poe, Serge Osmeña and Antonio Trillanes IV

Sen Jinggoy Estrada attended the hearing but inhibited himself from the proceedings. The senators who did not attend the hearing were Enrile, Revilla, Senators Gregorio Honasan, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Vicente Sotto III and Cynthia Villar.

What about 2010 onwards?

The special COA report on the PDAF only covered 2007 to 2009. Tan said an audit was already ongoing when she assumed position in 2011. 

Will COA release another report covering years beyond 2009?

Tan did not give a categorical response but she said COA has also produced audit reports containing details on how PDAF was used beyond 2009. 

However, these reports focus on specific agencies and local government units, not on PDAF itself. The following reports are:

  • 2008 National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) annual audit report
  • 2012 annual audit report of Dinalupihan Bataan
  • 2012 annual audit report of PIlar, Bataan
  • 2010 annual audit report of Antipolo City 

COA will release its audit report on Phil Forest in “one to two” weeks. Tan said they are still “carefully validating” the report after “clerical errors” were found in its audit report on PDAF.

Awarding discretionary funds to NGOs, illegal?

The COA report on PDAF found at least P6.156 billion was released to 82 dubious nongovernment organizations. Of the number, 10 are “presently linked” to alleged pork scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles. 

COA believes it is illegal to channel public funds to NGOs. 

“In our opinion, we have not seen a law or ordinance that gives authority to transfer nation’s funds from implementing agencies to a private corporation like an NGO,” Tan said. 

Is it possible that lawmakers do not know their allocations are going to NGOs? 

Tan said that in most cases – and there are documents to prove it – lawmakers recommend NGOs to implementing agencies themselves through endorsement letters.  

COA also made this observation in an earlier audit report covering 2007 to 2011, where it found that P1.35 billion in the PDAF of at least 49 senators and congressmen, coursed through Nabcor, went to 26 dubious NGOs.

The Senate Blue Ribbon will subpoena these endorsement letters by lawmakers for NGOs, Guingona said. – Rappler


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