Journalists in pork barrel scam may be liable for malversation
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday, March 20, that journalists who accept illegally used public funds may be charged with offenses such as direct bribery or malversation of public funds.
This comes on the heels of reports that the Department of Justice is set to conduct a probe into media personalities who allegedly received “bribes” taken from the pork barrel of lawmakers. (READ: DOJ to probe media linked to PDAF bribes)
Citing sworn statements by National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) whistleblowers, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that 3 media personalities received checks issued by one of Nabcor’s corporate bank accounts.
TV news anchor Erwin Tulfo, dzBB’s Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, and a third unidentified journalist were listed in the report. The two reportedly received checks amounting to P245,535 each.
Nabcor is believed to have been used as a conduit of pork barrel-funded projects under fake non-governmental organizations linked to Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
De Lima said journalists who benefited from the pork barrel will be held liable because public funds are at stake. Even if they are private individuals, they can be respondents like the other public officials, she added.
“Ganun din yan, ganun din kung mapatunayan mga media personalities na ito na tumanggap ng pera ng Nabcor, pera ng gobyerno na related sa questionable or dubious transactions using Napoles NGOs or even non-Napoles [NGOs],” De Lima said.
(It’s no different. It’s the same if media personalities are proven to have received money from Nabcor, money from government related to questionable or dubious transactions using Napoles NGOs or even non-Napoles [NGOs].)
Lawyer of the Nabcor whistleblowers, Levito Baligod, told De Lima the statement of Nabcor officials covers projects or transactions that involved some of the Napoles NGOs. The justice secretary said additional names are expected to be disclosed.
Asked if she would look into the media probe, De Lima said, “I will first look into allegations in sworn statements, see how substantial, how plausible” the allegations are against the identified media personalities.
She added they would have to look into the allegations carefully because the media profession as a whole would be affected every time any member of the media is implicated in such cases.
She also said Baligod promised he would send copies of the affidavits by Thursday, March 20. The Nabcor witnesses appear to be interested in being accepted into the Witness Protection Program, something that De Lima and Baligod have yet to discuss. – Rappler.com
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