'PDAF probe to go on even without senators' testimonies'
MANILA, Philippines – With or without the participation of the allegedly involved lawmakers, the Senate probe into the multibillion peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam will push through.
This is according to Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III in a radio interview on Sunday, September 8, when asked about the PDAF probe being conducted by his committee.
Guingona said there is no need to formally invite senators being accused of giving their PDAFs to bogus non-government organizations from 2007 to 2009.
"Kung ayaw nilang makilahok, we cannot force them. Nasa kanila 'yon. Karapatan nila and hindi pakikisali sa imbestigasyon but whatever happens, the investigation must go on,” he added.
(If they don’t want to participate, we cannot force them. It’s their right not to participate in the proceedings. The investigation, however, must go on.)
Senators accused of misusing their PDAFs are Senate minority floor leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Gregorio Honasan, and Ferdinand Marcos.
Guingona said the senators can only be asked questions if they wish to make a statement.
No ‘white wash’
Guingona assured the public that the Senate inquiry will not protect lawmakers involved in the controversy. He said that, if needed, the committee will recommend to the Office of the Ombudsman a further investigation of lawmakers involved in the alleged PDAF misuse.
"Bahagi ng committee functions namin ang pagrerekomenda ng investigation na kahit sino mang public officer. Kung public officer, kasama senator at congressman,” Guingona added.
(It is part of our committee’s functions to give recommendations of investigations of any public officer. Senators and representatives are considered public officers.)
Guingona also assured skeptics that no whitewash will happen, citing the first 2 hearings of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
During said hearings, representatives from the Commission on Audit and past officials of the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) and Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp (ZREC) were grilled by senators about PDAF releases to bogus NGOs coursed through their offices by lawmakers.
Senators Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, Honasan, and Marcos inhibited themselves from the investigation.
Guingona said that due to the sensitivity of the issue, whistleblowers like Benhur Luy will only be invited in the probe once they’ve submitted their affidavits or written narrations.
The affidavits, he explained, will provide details that will help the Senate investigation.
The whistleblowers will also be summoned before businesswoman Janet Napoles since they can provide context to Napoles’ testimony.
Guingona added that the Senate hearing will continue even if the Department of Justice (DOJ) files similar cases before the Ombudsman.
Senate to forego PDAF?
Guingona also revealed that there is a big possibility that the Senate will forego its PDAF allocation for 2014.
"It seems clear already because we have 16 out of 24 senators who said we should abolish the pork barrel," he added.
Guingona said the Senate can scrap its pork barrel for next year even if the House of Representatives opt to do otherwise.
"If the House agrees, then the entire P25 billion would be removed. But if it's only the Senate, then it would only be the portion of the Senate," Guingona said.
Guingona maintained that the debate over the uses of the PDAF is not yet over.
"That is a never-ending debate. You can always cite scholarships, medical assistance. And then on the other side, you can always cite corruption. There's no end. At the end of the day, you have to decide,” he said.
“I think the evil outweighs the good. Therefore, let's abolish the pork barrel," Guingona said. – Rappler.com