Blue ribbon hearing on Malampaya scam postponed

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Monday, May 19, 2014

THE Senate Blue Ribbon committee's investigation this Thursday into the P900-million Malampaya Fund anomalies will be moved to another date.

The postponement is due to the unavailability of Commission on Audit Chief Grace Pulido-Tan, who according to reports is now out of the country.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has decided to defer the scheduled investigation this week on the multi-billion peso alleged Malampaya scam in order to make sure that those who will be answering critical questions will be present with all the documents needed.

Guingona did not give any specific date but assured that the committee will prioritize the matter and will announce the rescheduled date soon.

The Malampaya fund scam is tightly interwoven with the scandal involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Last week, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima sought for more time to be able to get and provide the Senate with the copies of alleged pork scam queen Janet Napoles' narrative affidavits and she was given another one week.

For Senator Sergio Osmena III, the Blue Ribbon vice chair, said it is just right that the hearing be postponed in order for the people specifically government officials to be more focused on the coming World Economic Forum on East Asia.

"We don't want to embarrass the country further by washing our dirty linen (in the Senate hearing) while the World Economic Forum is going on next door," he said.

Osmena said it will also be a source of huge embarrassment for the country to host an event promoting economic reforms while such serious issues saddle the country.

"We will postpone the Malampaya hearing by one week because of the World Economic Forum. It is an embarrassing issue. The (scheduled) Thursday-Friday (events of) World Economic Forum (WEF) would be overshadowed by issues that will come out of the hearing," he said.

An estimated 600 business and civil society leaders from over 30 countries will be attending the WEF on East Asia slated on May 21 to 23 led by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhonoyo, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Burmese Vice President U Nyan Tun.

Osmena said he expects more revelations coming from Napoles since she just gave de Lima an initial rundown of senators and lawmakers tagged in the pork barrel scam while at the hospital last month.

"You ask me now I will give you a list. Supposed I remember something tomorrow, you want me to improve the list. When she did this a month ago, she does not want to give it because it may be incomplete," he said.

He said it is possible that Napoles is still in the process of recalling all the names or personalities she has had encountered within the past or had allegedly transacted with concerning the purported misuse of lawmakers' PDAF.

Until such time that all documents have been submitted, it will only be then that the panel will decide whether to reopen its inquiry on the pork barrel scam.

Guingona earlier said he will start the Malampaya fund inquiry since the committee had issued a committee report on the pork barrel scam.

The Malampaya scam is related to the pork barrel scam where former Palace secretary Ruby Tuason has been admitted as state witness.

Tuason has been granted with immunity from charges in the pork barrel scam but not in the Malampaya fund controversy, in which Napoles and some of the accused senators identified Tuason as the mastermind of the misuse of the energy fund.

Last May 2, the Office of the Ombudsman granted immunity to Tuason in the plunder case involving the alleged PDAF scam.

The Ombudsman, according to reports, expressed belief that the prosecution will benefit from the testimony of Tuason as it is a detailed narration of the participation of the lawmakers and the chiefs of staff of the senators who were implicated in the controversy.

Tuason earlier traveled out of the country to sell her properties abroad and was able to pay the government an amount of P40 million believed to be taken from Malampaya scam.

She was earlier charged with plunder in connection with the PDAF scam, together with Technology Resource Center (TRC) on-leave director general Dennis Cunanan, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Enrile's former chief of staff Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, and several other former and current government officials and employees.

The Ombudsman special panel of investigators found merit in the petition of Tuason to grant her immunity such that she has personal knowledge about the dealings of the senators with the bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of Napoles.

The Blue Ribbon committee conducted nine hearings on the pork barrel scam. Whistleblowers in the multi-billion peso scandal also revealed that Napoles got hold of around P900 million of the Malampaya fund in 2009.

The Malampaya fund represents the government's royalties from the natural gas exploration project in Palawan. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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