13 senators sign pork barrel probe report

Rappler.com
13 senators sign pork barrel probe report
With the blue ribbon report signed by the majority, the committee may now sponsor the report on the Senate floor – a rare instance in Senate history

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Thirteen out of 20 senators belonging to the blue ribbon committee have now signed the report on the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.  

Since the number represents more than the majority of the committee (11 out of 20 members), the report, which recommends the filing of plunder charges against 3 opposition senators, may now be sponsored on the Senate floor.

It will be a rare instance in the history of the upper chamber when senators would turn against their colleagues.  

At least one senator of the 13 who signed the report, however, is not endoring the recommendation to file plunder charges against senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr  for allegedly misusing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). 

Senator Cynthia Villar signed the blue ribbon report with comments: “I support the institution of reforms to promote transparency in government transactions toward a graft-free government. I defer the judgment on innocence or guilt of my fellow senators to the judiciary.”  

Villar is the 11th senator to sign the report. The 12th and 13th senators to sign are Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Pia Cayetano. 

Senator JV Ejercito, Estrada’s half-brother, earlier signed the report with reservations. He said the committee should also probe other non-governmental organizations linked to the pork barrel scam. 

The senators who signed the report were:

  1. Committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III
  2. Committee vice chairman Sergio Osmeña III
  3. Senator Francis Escudero
  4. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
  5. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago
  6. Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV
  7. Senator Grace Poe
  8. Senator Loren Legarda
  9. Senator Aquilino Pimentel III
  10. Senator JV Ejercito
  11. Senator Cynthia Villar
  12. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano
  13. Senator Pia Cayetano 

On April 1, Guingona released the contents of the report without the signatures of his colleagues. 

Back then, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the report was only “a recommendation of Senator Guingona” until it was signed by the majority. 

On the same day the report was released, the Ombudsman announced the filing of plunder charges against the 3 senators, alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, and 5 others for allegedly pocketing a total of P597 million in kickbacks and commissions from the PDAF of senators and congressmen from 2007 to 2009. (READ: Napoles, 3 senators indicted for plunder)

Estrada has repeatedly slammed the charges, saying it is part of efforts to undermine the opposition senators’ political career ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com

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