Senate ‘pork’ probe still on after case filing

Ayee Macaraig
Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers are invited to the hearing on September 24

IT'S ON. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe on the pork barrel scam resumes on September 24 even after the filing of a plunder case at the Ombudsman. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The filing of plunder charges before the Ombudsman will not stop the Senate’s own investigation into the pork barrel scam.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III issued a statement that the probe will continue on Tuesday, September 24.

Guingona said principal whistleblower Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers were invited to the hearing. Luy and the whistleblowers are former aides of alleged scam mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles. In the scam, lawmakers allegedly endorse fake non-governmental organizations as recipients of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in exchange for hefty kickbacks. 

“The Committee gave the Department of Justice and the whistleblowers in the case ample time to prepare for the filing of charges against those implicated in the alleged Napoles ‘pork barrel scam.’”

Guingona’s statement comes two days after the Department of Justice filed plunder cases against Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, their staff and other lawmakers and officials before the Ombudsman.

The filing of the case sparked questions on whether or not the Senate investigation will still continue.

Yet some senators have called for the resumption of the Senate hearing even if the Ombudsman will now also conduct its investigation on the issue.

Sen Francis Escudero said the Senate has yet to look into the 74 other NGOs not linked to Napoles, and has yet to summon the bank branch managers to shed light on Napoles’ huge withdrawals.

“The Senate remains to be the only venue where the citizens can very much acquaint themselves with the goings-on of this case from the witnesses and key players themselves. This has become equally important to the people because they now become more vigilant to demand to know where and how the government utilize the taxes they pay,” Escudero said on Tuesday, September 17.

Escudero said the Senate must hear from Napoles and other personalities Luy mentioned in his testimony last week.

“I have asked the committee to invite Napoles. I also spoke with Chairman TG Guingona about it. The court has the jurisdiction over her. Whether it grants our request or not is totally up to the court. But let it not be said that the Senate did not pursue it.”

Escudero cited the Senate probe into the case of former military comptroller Maj Gen Carlos Garcia, which went on even when it was already in the plea bargaining stage. 

Minority bloc member Sen Nancy Binay also wants the Senate probe to continue. Like Escudero, she said the investigation must be expanded to cover non-Napoles NGOs.

“A broader inquiry is needed so we can further look and inspect into the practice of national agencies, LGUs and GOCCs in utilizing NGOs as conduits to launder public funds, see the faults and cracks in the system and then strategize on how these can be dealt with,” Binay said.

The Senate investigation has led witnesses to name Enrile, Estrada and Revilla as having endorsed the Napoles NGOs. Senate President Franklin Drilon revealed that Enrile’s minority bloc had requested that names not be mentioned in the Senate probe.

The Senate probe, meant to be in aid of legislation, began after the release of the report on the Commission on Audit’s special audit of pork barrel funds in August.

Do you agree that the Senate probe should still continue? Let us know in the comments section below. – 

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