CHIZ ESCUDERO: PORK SCAM CAUSING FRICTION AMONG SENATORS
MANILA, SEPTEMBER 9, 2013 (INQUIRER ) With some members of the Senate in the spotlight for alleged mishandling of millions of pesos from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the issue has caused some friction among the senators, Senator Francis Escudero (photo above) has disclosed.
“There is a bit of friction between some of its members, those that are involved, not involved, and could possibly be involved,” Escudero told reporters in a briefing Friday, a day after three senators – Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (photo from left to right) – were identified as having endorsed their PDAF or “pork barrel” to fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
The Senate blue ribbon committee is investigating the billion-peso “ pork barrel” scam, allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Napoles allegedly managed to siphon off some P10 billion from the PDAF of lawmakers by establishing bogus NGOs.
Witnesses in Thursday’s Senate hearing identified Enrile, Estrada and Revilla as having endorsed the release of their PDAF to these fake NGOs owned by Napoles.
Escudero said the scam has adversely affected the Senate and its credibility and has gone as far as affecting the work of its members.
“Friction in the sense that the atmosphere of the work is not normal unlike if there is no issue like this,” Escudero said.
Escudero said that there were those who would accuse other members of riding on the pork barrel issue to look good.
“There are others who will say that they are putting down their fellow senators and that today’s accusers may find themselves in the same boat later on,” Escudero said in Filipino.
“The situation is different when there are no issues like this where members of the Senate are involved and being the subject of hearings,” Escudero said.
Enrile, Estrada, Revilla linked anew to Napoles pork scam By Maila Ager INQUIRER.net 11:50 am | Thursday, September 5th, 2013
FROM THE SPINSBUSTERS BLOG: "But we had to wipe our reading glasses clean out of shock and disbelief when we saw familiar names on the COA list of “questionable” transactions, who were, in retrospect, conspicuously absent or buried six feet under in PDI’s pork exposés."
MANILA, Philippines – Two more witnesses showed up at the Senate Thursday and identified three senators who had allegedly funnelled their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to questionable non-government organizations (NGOs).
One witness also admitted meeting with Janet Lim-Napoles twice. Testifying at the Senate blue ribbon committee, Alan Javellana and Rhodora Mendoza, former president and vice president for finance and administration of National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) respectively, identified the three senators as Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
The senators, they said, had allegedly coursed their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc. (SDPFFI), Magsasakang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI), and People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Incorporated through Nabcor.
The NGOs were all linked to Napoles. “Which legislators funnelled their funds through Nabcor to these NGOs – the eight NGOs?” asked Senator Teofisto Guingona, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee investigating the “pork barrel” scam. “Senator Revilla, Senator Enrile and Senator Estrada,” Javellana said. Javellana said Senator Gregorio “Gringo Honasan also coursed his PDAF through Nabcor but it did not go to the NGOs identified with Napoles. Honasan’s PDAF, he said, went to Sagip Buhay People Support Foundation .
Another Nabcor official, Mendoza, corroborated Javellana’s testimony. “I’m very sure of the three senators— Revilla, Estrada and Enrile,” said Mendoza when asked by Guingona to name the legislators who had endorsed their PDAF to the three Napoles NGOs.
Mendoza was not among those invited as resource persons in the hearing, but she was called from the gallery on Javellana’s suggestion. Mendoza said the three senators endorsed their PDAF to SDPFF1, MAMFI, and People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc.
She said Enrile endorsed the use of his PDAF for all three NGOs, while Estrada allegedly funnelled his funds to SDPFII and MAMFI while Revilla’s PDAF went to MAMFI. Mendoza also identified some congressmen whose PDAF were allegedly transferred to either SDPFII and MAMFI.
It was only Enrile, who she said used his PDAF to the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. Mendoza said most of the legislators signed the endorsement letters and the releases of funds to the NGOs while a few had assigned somebody from their offices.
She said she did not find anything suspicious about the transactions. “[None], they are complying so far,” Mendoza said. Still under intense questioning by Guingona, Javellana, who was head of Nabor from 2007 to 2009, admitted that he met with Napoles herself four years ago.
He said he met with Napoles twice at the coffee shop of Discovery Suites in Mandaluyong City. “Twice kami nag-meet (We met twice),” said Javellana. “Bakit sa Discovery (whay at Discovery)?” Guingona asked. “I was invited to go there,” said Javellana, adding that he and Napoles only had coffee in the hotel.
Asked again by the senator what they discussed during their meetings, Javellana said: “Wala kaming pinag-usapan na PDAF. I briefed her about Nabcor.
Their second meeting, Javelllana said, was just a follow-up of what they had previously discussed. But when Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero asked why he would go out to meet with Napoles, Javellana said because she was among the potential investors for Nabcor projects.
Aside from Napoles, Javellana also admitted he had dealt with whistle-blower Benhur Luy, who represented Napoles’ NGOs . Mendoza said she had also dealt with Luy, who had frequently visited their office. In fact, she said, it was Luy, who introduced her to Napoles. “I met her once… I was invited in the thanksgiving Mass in Discovery Suites,” she said of Napoles.
Assistant secretary Salvador Salacup, former head of Zamboanga Rubber Estate Corp (ZREC), also testified at the hearing and confirmed that Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada had also funnelled their PDAF to Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. their office.
But Salacup clarified that the foundation was not linked to Napoles. He specifically recalled seeing the name of Revilla who actually signed the endorsement letters to several NGOs while other endorsement letters were signed by authorized representatives. “I recall because he [Revilla] only had one project,” Salacup said.’ There was one “communication” though, he said, from the office of Estrada signed by the senator himself. He said there was also a letter signed by a certain Attorney Lucila Reyes.
Aside from the two senators, Salacup said APEC Representative Edgar Valdez and Buhay Representative Rene Velarde also endorsed their PDAF to questionable organizations through ZREC.
Both Valdez and Velarde, he said, signed their endorsement letters to the NGOs.
FROM THE INQUIRER
Revilla lawyer: Charges all lies ‘Senator denounces trial by publicity’ By Norman Bordadora Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:15 am | Saturday, September 7th, 2013 119
SAY CHEESE Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and his wife, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado (center), share party time with Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged woman on top of the P10-billion pork scandal, and husband Jimmy during the wedding of Rep. Roman Romulo and Shalani Soledad early last year. Napoles was one of the Romulos’ 22 wedding sponsors. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The lawyer of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Friday branded as “lies” the allegations made against the legislator by whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam even as Revilla continues to avoid making an appearance at the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the scandal.
Lawyer Joel Bodegon said Revilla would continue to refrain from attending the Senate hearings as he felt that “it is inappropriate for him to appear” before the investigation panel chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.
“Senator Revilla reiterates that he is as much interested to know the truth as anyone else, that is why he is continuing with his own investigation of all the allegations against him,” he added.
Revilla and two other senators, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, were tagged by witnesses at the blue-ribbon committee hearings as among the lawmakers who endorsed dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to be recipients of tens of millions of pesos of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) entitlements.
The witnesses—former heads of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) that served as conduits for the pork barrel to the questionable NGOs—corroborated the testimony of Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan who testified on the results of the COA special audit of pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009.
Aside from the testimony of former GOCC heads Salvador Salacup of ZNAC Rubber Estates Corp. and Alan Javellana of National Agribusiness Corp. at the Senate inquiry on Thursday that Revilla, Enrile and Estrada had endorsed questionable NGOs, including those of Napoles, several whistle-blowers have also identified the three legislators as among those who gave their PDAF to the dubious groups.
“[Senator Revilla] denounces the trial by publicity as a derogation of his constitutional right to due process of law,” Bodegon said.
“He is appalled at how the media are giving unwarranted credence to the lies purveyed by the whistle-blowers who have publicly confessed their criminal enterprise of stealing the lawmakers’ PDAF,” he said.
The lawyer said Revilla was currently securing documents related to the PDAF disbursements to have their authenticity verified.
A former GOCC vice president also told the Senate hearing on Thursday that Revilla, Enrile and Estrada signed the document four times covering one such fund release to an NGO. The funds were released in four tranches as part of the alleged safeguards against abuses.
“Currently, he is having all the documents which appear to bear his signatures for expert examination, especially because the whistle-blowers themselves said they faked the documents,” Bodegon said.
Even the alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles has denied having any transactions with Revilla, the lawyer said.
Asked when Revilla would face his colleagues concerning the allegations against him, Bodegon said the matter was “under advisement.”
“He wants the committee to conduct its hearing without being inhibited by his presence,” Bodegon said, when asked why Revilla continues to inhibit himself from the proceedings.
Meanwhile, neophyte Sen. JV Ejercito wants the COA to cast a wider net in its audit of pork barrel releases to identify others who could have been involved in the scam, other than opposition leaders Enrile and Estrada.
Ejercito, a half-brother of Estrada (the two are sons of deposed President Joseph Estrada, who is now mayor of Manila), said there could also be “other Napoleses” with the same modus operandi, securing pork barrel kickbacks for themselves and for corrupt lawmakers.
“It has been mentioned quite often three members of our colleagues (sic),” Ejercito said at the Senate hearing on Thursday, apparently referring to Estrada, Enrile and Revilla.
Ejercito, a former congressman representing San Juan, said there had to be more individuals operating the same way as Napoles.
“We are zeroing in on Napoles NGOs in this hearing, but with your indulgence, I would like to ask the COA or [the Department of Agriculture] or whoever, are there other Napoleses operating this way? Because there can’t only be one,” he said.
Ejercito told the committee that during his stint in the House, “there are times there are a lot of beautiful ladies around (sic).”
“We called them ‘livelihood girls’ because they were peddling livelihood projects,” he said, indicating that the women were asking lawmakers if they could fund the projects with their PDAF for possible kickbacks for both the proponents and the lawmakers.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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