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Noy’s LP cronies go scot-free in pork scam

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Not one Liberal Party senator or congressman, as well as Noy’s allies in both houses of Congress, nor even a Cabinet official will be charged for plunder on the pork barrel scam.

 

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted as much to reporters yesterday, October 25.

Despite glaring proof to the contrary, De Lima claimed that partisan politics played no part in indicting opposition lawmakers and virtually clearing Palace allies for their alleged part in the scandal over the diversion of lawmakers’ discretionary funds.

De Lima confirmed that no member of the ruling Liberal Party nor allies of President Aquino would be included in the second batch of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) charges being prepared by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and expected to be filed before the Ombudsman next week.

De Lima has also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to cancel the passports of the non-allies of Aquino, namely Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., along with the others named in the DoJ-NBI complaint of plunder lodged before the Ombudsman on grounds of “national security (see related story, page 1).

De Lima admitted that the NBI probe on the pork controversy is limited to the testimonies of whistleblowers against alleged brains of the scam, Janet Lim Napoles and supporting evidence gathered by the team.

She justified the exclusion of the allies of Aquino who were also named in the Commission on Audit (CoA) special report and the non-investigation by the NBI on the Aquino allies and partymates, claiming that the NBI cannot investigate everything in the CoA.

“The NBI cannot investigate everything in the CoA report due to limited resources,” she said.

She failed to explain why the investigation was focused solely on the non-allies of Aquino who are key opposition figures at the same time, using the same resources.

The cancellation request of the Justice chief of the passports of the three senators came a day after Aquino, in his talk in the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) forum claimed that the attacks against his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was a conspiracy he blamed on “well known political persons” who had conspired to attack his DAP funds.

“All of these attacks came after plunder cases, among others, that were filed in the Office of the Ombudsman against a few well-known politicians.”

He did not name names, but was obviously referring to the three non-allied senators for the alleged attacks on his DAP funds.

“Since I am in a room full of journalists, perhaps I can leave it to you to connect the dots,” he said during the Focap forum,” he was quoted as saying.

Aquino is known for his vindictiveness.

The DAP issue came to fore after Senator Estrada, in a privilege speech, mentioned that senators were given P50 million each as “incentive.”

As the P50 million “incentive” was bared which implicated LP stalwart Sen. Franklin Drilon, then the finance chairman, and said to have been a bribe to get the senators to convict then impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, the Palace quickly came up with its damage control, with Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad saying that the millions given to senators were from the unknown DAP funds, to “stimulate” the economy.

However, virtually the majority of senators said they were unaware of such a program, which was moreover not included in the 2012 budget.

The Palace damage control went awry as it was later found that several senator allies got 100 million and not just P50 million.

Also Abad was hard put to justify the PDAF as stimulus to the senators.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants the allies of Aquino to also be charged with plunder, naming at least two of them, Senate President Drilon and Sen. Francis Escudero along with the three non-allies of Aquino, saying that they were given P100 million each while the rest of the senators were given only P50 million.

Santiago said that the three senators already charged with plunder – Enrile, Estrada, and Bong Revilla – are expected to be joined shortly by other senators, as soon as the Justice secretary finds the NBI reports to be sufficient in substance.

But this won’t happen, because the Justice Secretary herself has already stated that the second tranche of plunder cases which is probably the last of the plunder complaints, will not include the allies of Aquino.

The DoJ chief revealed that the lawmakers and non-government organizations included in the CoA report apart from those linked to Napoles would be subject of the investigation of the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft and Corruption Council (IAAGCC).

“It is not our fault, it was not deliberate on our part that only opposition lawmakers were included in the first batch of charges. We don’t look at political affiliations of respondents. We only based our findings on evidence gathered,” the DoJ chief stressed.

During the impeachment proper, House prosecutors confirmed that they had signed the impeachment complaint against Corona without reading the same and that they felt it was poorly prepared.

Subsequent investigation showed Malacañang also tapped funds in the form of discretionary funds contrary to the constitutional requirements on the disbursement of public funds.

“The senators suspected of plunder have lost their moral right to steer the debate from the PDAF to the DAP. I myself believe that the DAP should be abolished for being unconstitutional. But I will not allow my colleagues to deflect their criminal liabilities concerning PDAF by harping on the DAP system from which they themselves profited,” she said.

According to the Budget secretary, the biggest recipients of the controversial DAP, receiving P100 million each, are the following senators: Enrile, Drilon, and Escudero. Other allies were said to have gotten more than P50 million but were not listed by the Budget chief.

“They can shout to high heavens about how useful their projects were, but that is begging the issue. The issue is whether the DAP is constitutional, whether those senators received kickbacks from their bonanzas, and why those three were favoured over the rest by receiving double the amount,” she said.

“President Aquino’s priorities are correct. For purposes of deterrence, it is more efficient and bloodcurdling to send senators to jail, if they are guilty of plunder. Analyzing and retrofitting the pork barrel system should come later, because it will take more time and requires highly technical skill,” said Santiago.

Santiago repeated her advocacy that “justice delayed is justice denied,” and urged public support for the Ombudsman in resolving the preliminary investigation so that if merited, criminal cases can be filed in court this year.

“Clearly, the persons in interest are availing of the hoary courtroom tactic by the defense to delay the case, so that the endgame will never be reached. Trial courts all over the country are too familiar with this tactic to lend credence to the various efforts of persons in interest to distract public attention and resort to technicalities,” the senator said.

Santiago said that, having been an RTC judge herself, just like the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, she knows that preliminary investigation should not be treated as a full-scale trial, but basically as an examination of the affidavits of the complainant and the counteraffidavits of the respondents.

“If the public supports her, the Ombudsman can actually finish the preliminary investigation in only two or three months. The justice secretary should no longer entertain any motion for reconsideration, because the justice department already reviewed at length the NBI evidence.

When media asked whether preventive suspension might disable the Senate from constituting a quorum, Santiago said: “Dura lex sed lex. If that is what the law provides, the lack of a quorum is not a reason for disobeying the law. The Senate itself can change the rule on quorums to enable the Senate to function.”

However, contrary to Aquino’s stand, Santiago said that it is not an excuse for pork barrel to be retained, just because it will help to ensure the reelection of incumbent representatives.

“To help the best and brightest to get elected to public office, it is not necessary to convert the office of the congressman into a local DSWD with freebies for all constituents. That is a matter for campaign finance reform. Ideally, government should finance and strictly regulate campaign advertising. In other words, government should subsidize campaigns, to make sure that candidates do not resort to vote-buying using pork barrel which are public funds,” she said.

Santiago said there is no provision in the Constitution stating that distribution of freebies in the community is part of the function of a lawmaker.

“Candidates should win on the basis of academic excellence and professional excellence. They should not win reelection by using pork barrel to bribe voters. That system is corrupt and breeds a culture of dependency on the person rather than on the institution of government,” she said.

Santiago, reacting to a recent speech by Aquino, said that he is “mostly correct” in insisting that the first item of business concerning the pork barrel scam should be to jail, if warranted, the senators and representatives charged by the NBI with plunder before the Ombudsman. The Daily Tribune

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