Senators urge expansion of ‘pork’ probe

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago proposed the need to investigate other senators mentioned in the affidavits of whistleblowers who earlier said there were other senators who were involved in the pork barrel scam.

The Ombudsman earlier recommended the filing of plunder and graft cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. along with alleged pork barrel queen Janet Napoles.

"We receive the electric shock running through our system but, still there have to be aftershocks, meaning to say, let's look at the affidavits of the whistleblowers and see who else were named there," Santiago said.


She also supported Estrada's call to make the playing field fair and square to each and everyone and should not focus only on the three senators since other senators were also mentioned.

In a press conference, Santiago said it is possible that the six or seven senators will also face the same fate, if sufficient documents and evidence will be presented against them.

Santiago challenged the Senate leadership to dig deeper into the issue insisting that the Senate should consider the welfare of the people regardless of their position as she explained the need to really bring the matter to the ethics committee.

According to reports, those other senators who were being linked to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam include Senators Loren Legarda (aka dahon), Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Gregorio Honasan, and Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (aka bigote).

Earlier, Estrada challenged the Aquino government to exercise fairness to all of the senators and other legislators that were mentioned in the Commission on Audit (COA) report and in the affidavits as well.

Estrada lamented the committee's failure to include in its probe the other NGOs mentioned in the COA report including other lawmakers from the administration who were also being linked to the scam.

"Why did the committee just concentrate on the non-government organizations connected to Janet Napoles when resolutions were filed directing the body to also look into the other NGOs, which received even bigger funds from the PDAF?" Estrada said.

"Bakit kami lamang tatlo samantalang marami pang iba na kadikit ng kasalukuyan administrasyon ang binanggit din, ngunit naka sentro lamang ang imbestigasyon sa amin nina Sen. Enrile at Revilla," Estrada was quoted as saying.

Santiago said the issue raised by Estrada is valid and for the sake of fairness if the present government is serious in its campaign, the senate leadership should take the challenge of Estrada seriously.

At the same time Santiago lauded the Ombudsman's decision to act on the charges of plunder filed against Enrile, Revilla, Estrada and other legislators from the Lower House including Janet Lim Napoles and other government officials from various government agencies.

"It is really very difficult for the Ombudsman to act because they are all powerful people," Santiago said.

Santiago said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales deserve commendation for deciding to file the charges against these extremely powerful people who really have strong influence in the government.

But Santiago said those being accused before the Ombudsman can still ask for the intervention of the Supreme Court for a possible Temporary Restraining Order "but under the Sandiganbayan's rules of procedure, the court can automatically issue a warrant of arrest once the charge sheet is given to the SB and as a procedure, those being accused particularly the senators will automatically face suspension."

"Mahirap makakuha ng TRO. Once the Sandiganbayan will receive the charge sheet, then this will give them the right to issue the warrant of arrest. It will be very difficult to get the TRO. It is the burden of the accused to show and present their evidence kasi may sariling procedure ang Ombudsman. And the burden of proof is now their problem( Enrile, Revilla and Estrada). Pwera na lang kung makakuha sila ng malakas na ebidensiya para mag isyu ng TRO ang Korte Suprema," said Santiago.

Meanwhile, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said he believes the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has enough bases to recommend the filing of charges against the three senators.

Cayetano acknowledge though that he expects conflicts among senators to ensue following the release of the committee report.

He said that this situation will be a test of maturity for senators to still be able to perform their task of passing legislation amid personal conflicts.

But Minority Senators JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay criticized Blue Ribbon committee chair Teofisto Guingona III for issuing the committee report without the proper consultation.

Binay said obviously the timing is malicious considering the Ombudsman also made a similar announcement on that same day that the Blue Ribbon chair made his pronouncement.

Ejercito, for his part, said everything is political and the intention was obviously meant for the 2016 elections.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, urged Guingona to continue the investigation and this time, he is asking the Blue Ribbon chair to investigate the 64 more non-government organizations (NGO) that are not identified with Napoles.

Escudero said that corruption is affecting the whole system and it is high time that those who pocketed the money of the Filipino be held answerable.

The senator said 64 NGO-conduits is much bigger than what was said to have been amassed and pocketed by Napoles and her alleged lawmaker-clients through the businesswoman's eight shell foundations.

Escudero said Guingona should keep probing other NGOs that have the same modus operandi with Napoles.

"Hindi dapat matapos ang kwento sa iilan lamang na tao. Tama lamang na busisiin pa natin ang mga iba pang NGOs na sangkot sa pagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan at hindi dapat itong ipagkibit balikat lamang," Escudero said. (Camille p. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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