Photo by Senate PRIB/Cesar Tomambo
MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, August 21, backed the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's probe into the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
"We heard the people’s loud clamor for accountability from us and they will not be denied," Drilon said in a statement. "We will hold ourselves accountable."
The Senate, through its Blue Ribbon Committee, decided to push through with the investigation after the release of the Commission on Audit report, which found that at least P6.1 billion of lawmakers' funds were misused.
Earlier, senators agreed in a caucus not to conduct a parallel probe pending the full investigation of the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation, citing a conflict of interest.
But they changed their minds on Tuesday, August 20, days after the release of the COA report, which found at least P6.1 billion of lawmakers' funds released from 2007-2009 were allocated to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
At least one item in the COA report, however, has been found to be inaccurate: the findings that former Compostela Valley Rep and now Vice Gov Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora received a total of P3 billion in pork barrel from 2007-2009. The Department of Budget and Management on Tuesday, August 20, said the amount went to the Department of Public Works and Highways, not to Zamora. Earlier, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said COA might have committed an "error" in its report on Zamora.
Drilon said: "I enjoin my colleagues in the Senate to respond fully to the questions raised by COA’s findings," Drilon said. "We are accountable to our people and they deserve no less each than everyone’s full explanations to these questions."
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and senators Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan II, Bongbong Marcos and Bong Revilla were named in earlier Philippine Daily Inquirer reports as among those who allocated their pork barrel to dubious NGOs allegedly controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles. The COA report, released later on, showed Revilla, Enrile and Estrada were among the lawmakers who were "patrons" of Napoles' NGOs.
The Senate majority bloc, led by Drilon, is also set to file a resolution for senators not to avail of their PDAF until "stricter measures" are installed. It came after President Benigno Aquino III himself announced Malacañang was holding PDAF releases until the probe on the pork barrel scam is completed.
Amid increasing public clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel system, Drilon has maintained that although he is open to the idea of abolishing PDAF, he would rather reform it.
During the probe, Drilon said senators will review "the need to fund the PDAF in 2014 and beyond and to immediately recommend the adoption of strict guidelines in the use of the PDAF, among others." - Rappler.com