De Lima to appear at Senate pork barrel probe

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, one of the so-called "Three Furies" investigating the pork barrel scam, will face the Senate on Thursday, September 12, to shed light on the probe.

The Senate blue Ribbon Committee announced on Wednesday that De Lima accepted its invitation to attend the hearing on Thursday.

De Lima is one of the heads the Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) looking into the pork barrel scam. The other two are Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan. Tan attended the first Senate hearing on the issue.

The committee released the following guest list for the third hearing on the pork barrel scam:

10. Director Susan Garcia (Commission on Audit)

11. Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup (former ZREC head, 2007-2009)

12. Honesto Baniqued (President, National Agribusiness Corporation or NABCOR)

13. Alan Javellana (Former NABCOR president, 2007-2009)

14. Gondelina Amata (President, National Livelihood Development Corp or NLDC)

15. Dennis Cunanan (Director General of Technology Resource Center or TRC)

16. Antonio Ortiz (Former TRC director general)

17. Whistleblowers under the custody of the DOJ

The office of Committee Chairman Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said the Department of Justice (DOJ) did not indicate who among the whistleblowers will attend the hearing. The whistleblowers are the former aides and workers of alleged scam mastermind, Janet Napoles. 

With De Lima’s attendance, there will now be two Cabinet secretaries on hand in the hearing. Alcala first attended the probe last week. Government corporations under his department, like Nabcor and ZREC, were named as among those that granted the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-governmental organizations.

The hearing comes in the same week President Benigno Aquino III announced that the government is filing the first set of charges related to the scam.

The committee is investigating the alleged corruption scam where lawmakers supposedly endorsed fake NGOs as recipients of their PDAF in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

In the first two hearings, Tan and former heads of Nabcor and ZREC said that Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada and several representatives endorsed NGOs linked to Napoles.

The committee asked the former chiefs of Nabcor and ZREC to return and bring with them documents on the transfer of funds to clearly identify the lawmakers involved and the money trail.

Last week, Guingona said the testimony of the whistleblowers will be key to establishing how the money was transferred from the government to the fake NGOs to Napoles and the lawmakers.

“We already established that the NGOs are fake. What is lacking is establishing how the funds went to the legislators. The story is unfolding,” Guingona said.

Jinggoy laments ‘mind-conditioning’

In a chance interview before the start of session on Wednesday, Estrada told reporters about his sentiments on the issue.

Convicted na kami sa mata ng tao,” he said without elaborating. (We are already convicted in the eyes of the people.)

Asked why he does not respond to clear his name, Estrada said, “Mabilis sagutin pero araw-araw ka naman tinitira, parang kinukundisyon ang utak ng mga tao.” (It is easy to answer, but every day you are being attacked. They are conditioning the minds of the people.)

Revilla also alluded to the controversy when he led the prayer at the opening of the session.

“Sa panahong ito, Panginoon, higit na kailangan ng aming bayan ang iyong pagkalinga. Haplusin po Ninyo ang aming bansa ng inyong mapagkalingang kamay. Yakapin ninyo ang bayang ito ng Inyong Banal na pagmamahal.”

(During these times Lord, our nation greatly needs your care. Touch our country with your caring hand. Embrace the nation with your love.)

He added, “Father in heaven, we pray for our nation and all in government who strive dearly to serve our people. Let Your truth inspire, motivate and protect those in the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary.”

Revilla, Estrada and Enrile have recused themselves from the probe. Other senators also tagged in the controversy like Sen Bongbong Marcos have skipped the hearings. –