Lacson should head 'independent' pork probe – Cayetano

MANILA, Philippines – To address concerns about a possible conflict of interest in the Senate probe into the pork barrel scam where some senators have been tagged, Sen Alan Cayetano wants the chamber to appoint a "special independent investigator."

"The best person to do it," Cayetano said, would be former Sen Panfilo Lacson, who never availed himself of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) the entire 12 years he was a lawmaker.

In a press conference on Wednesday, August 21, Cayetano said he is set to file a resolution asking the Senate to authorize the Blue Ribbon committee to appoint Lacson.

This is meant to address concerns over the impartiality of the Senate probe given that senators themselves are involved in the scandal. 

 

"[The probe] finds itself in a unique situation because it's the first that many of its members will somehow be in the investigation themselves or may be investigating instances of abuse that may lead to them," Cayetano said. 

Why Lacson? Aside from not utilizing his pork barrel, he has the track record of being an investigator as a former Philippine National Police chief.

Lacson was also the choice of Malacañang to lead an independent commission to investigate corruption, Cayetano said. 

Cayetano added one more qualification – he said he believes Lacson would be the perfect person to track down "pork barrel queen" Janet Lim-Napoles due to their similar experiences. 

"Hindi lang siya marunong maghanap, marunong din siyang magtago," Cayetano said. (He doesn't only know how to find, he knows how to hide)

Lacson was in a similar position as Napoles, who is now considered a fugitive, when he went into hiding for over a year after a warrant of arrest was issued against him for the murders of his publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.  

But there's a rub – Cayetano admitted he has not asked Lacson directly if he was willing to lead such an investigation. 

"I spoke to him two weeks ago and I asked him about the status of his appointment in Malacañang," Cayetano said. "I was basically saying if there's an investigation, you'd be the best person to do it because you don't want pork and everything and he just smiled at me." 

Redundant?

Won't Lacson's proposed role interfere with the Blue Ribbon's probe as well as the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Ombudsman?

The effort would be independent from yet complementary to the probe set to be conducted by the Senate on Thursday, Cayetano said. 

Under Cayetano's proposal, Lacson will be allowed to form his own team, and conduct not just his own hearings but also his own ground investigation as the Blue Ribbon conducts its own weekly hearings. 

Cayetano said such "technicalities" could be ironed out when the proposal is approved. 

But as to how different the proposed independent investigation would be from the NBI, Cayetano said that would be "up to Lacson." 

"The point is how to make this investigation credible, impartial and fair," he said. 

'Open your books' 

Cayetano has also requested the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit on his PDAF allocations from 2010 to present and challenged others to do the same.

The special COA audit on the pork barrel covered only the period of 2007-2009, leading critics to say it was meant to put the spotlight on the Arroyo administration and shield the current administration, which started in 2010. 

He also challenged this colleagues to make their PDAF allocations public. 

"The best way to resolve the issue is for everyone to come clean," Cayetano said. "No excuses. No exemptions. I am urging all lawmakers to open their financial records to the public in the spirit of transparency, accountability, and reform." 

Cayetano is also set to file a concurrent resolution on Thursday asking his colleagues to support calls to abolish PDAF amid increasing calls to scrap the system. – Rappler.com