Miriam: Probe excessive spending for Napoles

Santiago urges the Senate to investigate the PNP's P150,000 monthly expenses for the detention of Janet Napoles

'CONTINUE PROBE.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urges the Senate to investigate the PNP's P150,000 monthly expenses for Janet Napoles' detention. File photo by Romy Bugante/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – Why should taxpayers pay for Janet Napoles’ medical exam and even her transvaginal ultrasound machine?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago asked the Senate blue ribbon committee to look into the excessive government spending for the detention of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind.

In Senate Resolution 574, Santiago directed the committee to include in its ongoing investigation the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) P150,000 monthly expenses for Napoles’ detention at a police camp in Sta Rosa, Laguna.

Santiago reiterated her argument that Napoles should not enjoy VIP treatment because she refuses to cooperate with the justice department and the Senate by providing information on the scam.

“There is no acceptable reason why government should single her out for special treatment among the more than 70,000 detention prisoners in the country,” Santiago said in the resolution released Tuesday, March 18.

The senator cited reports that the PNP shouldered the P3,000 cost of Napoles’ medical examination at the Camp Crame General Hospital last February.

“The PNP also rented for the medical examination a 2D transvaginal ultrasound machine costing the PNP P5,000.”

Santiago again said that Napoles should observe a so-called “pay-for-stay” program, an arrangement practiced in the US where the detainee is asked to choose between an ordinary stay in jail at the government’s expense or stay in an enhanced facility at her expense.

The former trial court judge first made the suggestion in a speech last Friday where she said, “Government does not even spend that much money to protect me and I have more enemies than Napoles!”

Malacañang responded that Santiago should raise her suggestion before the Makati Regional Trial Court, which has jurisdiction over Napoles and sets the conditions of her detention.

Napoles faces a plunder complaint for allegedly conniving with top lawmakers to funnel their discretionary funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.

She is detained for a separate illegal detention case filed by her cousin and former employee, principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Summon ex-NABCOR officials

In a separate resolution, Santiago also asked the blue ribbon committee to summon former officials of the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) who are applying to become state witnesses.

Santiago wants former Nabcor vice president for finance Rhodora Mendoza and former Nabcor head of general services Vic Cacal to face the Senate to testify and submit documents on the scam to the Senate.

“They can also testify on how the loopholes in the disbursement of government funds are exploited in order for public officials to plunder public funds,” Santiago said in Senate Resolution no. 575.

The two officials submitted documents showing that 4 senators and 79 representatives coursed P1.7 billion in pork barrel funds through the Nabcor, a government agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Mendoza and Cacal identified Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and former Senator Edgardo Angara as among those who funneled their pork barrel funds through Nabcor to questionable NGOs.

Mendoza appeared in a Senate hearing in September 2013, saying she was “very sure” Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla signed endorsement letters and even liquidation reports of the Napoles NGOs.

Santiago wants the Senate to look into Mendoza and Cacal’s media statements that former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and former Nabcor president Alan Javellana exerted pressure to expedite the release of the funds to the NGOs even without complete documentary requirements.

The senator made the call even after saying that the Senate should wrap up its probe into the Napoles-related NGOs because the public is “already suffering from PDAF fatigue.”

She said last week, “We’ve already obtained enough info to tell us how the scam was carried out and what law we should pass or promulgate so this will not be repeated.”

‘Angara can respond to charges’

Angara’s son, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, said his father can respond to the allegations. Unlike Estrada, Enrile and Revilla, Angara is not included in the plunder complaint before the Ombudsman.

“I’m concerned but I’m pretty confident that he can answer them, these charges against him. His name came out in the full report. The [Commission on Audit] commissioner said just appearing in the COA report is not evidence of criminal involvement,” the younger Angara said in an interview on ANC.

Senator Angara said his father is abroad but will be willing to answer the charges when he gets back. “He’s not hiding.”

The COA special audit report for 2007 to 2009 showed former Senator Angara had P19.4 million in his pork barrel released to the Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation in 2009 to 2010, for the benefit of the 3rd district of Davao City.

His office said last year it had no record of the allocation coursed through Nabcor. –