MARCOS DENIES 'PORK' MISUSE; SENATE SUMMONS WHISTLE-BLOWERS


MANILA, SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Marvin Sy - Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has denied any involvement in the misuse of pork barrel funds, saying his signature purportedly authorizing the transfer of funds to non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to alleged scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles was falsified.

“When this scandal broke out, I purposely kept quiet – even when my name was constantly being dragged into this controversy. Instead, I instructed my office to conduct an investigation because I wanted to be very sure about what I would say since I didn’t want to misinform nor mislead the public,” he said.

He said the investigation was conducted after Magno Oasan, supervising auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA), sent a letter to his office last Sept. 4 asking for confirmation on the authenticity of his signature that appeared on an endorsement letter to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC).

The endorsement letter, dated March 16, 2012, was addressed to NLDC president Gondelina Amata in relation to a Special Allotment Release Order amounting to P100 million.

Marcos disowned the endorsement letter purportedly authorizing his chief of staff, Ramon Cardenas, to deal with NLDC, and sign on his behalf all documents needed to support the implementation of various livelihood projects nationwide.

In the letter, Marcos also supposedly requested the release of funds to Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc., Kaupdanan para Mangunguma Foundation Inc., and the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc., which were also linked to Napoles.

Marcos noted that the endorsement letter does not appear in the docket system of his office.

He said the signatures of Cardenas in the memorandum of agreement to the four NGOs were also falsified, as a certain lawyer not commissioned by the regional trial court of Makati notarized them.

“Conducting our internal investigation was not an easy task, especially since we were never given any documents regarding the transactions my office was allegedly involved in. Fortunately, when we received the COA letter asking us for confirmation, we were able to make some sense of what was going on,” Marcos said.

He said a copy of the investigative report was transmitted to the COA yesterday “in the hope that it could aid the agency in its audit.”

“In my nine years as a legislator, both as a congressman and now as a senator, I have steered clear of any controversy. I have always exerted due diligence to ensure that every centavo allocated for my projects is used only for the benefit of the public,” he added.

Marcos said that they are conducting further investigations “until we ferret out the truth regarding this matter.”

This developed as the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has invited Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam to attend the hearing on the issue on Thursday.

The whistle-blowers were asked to bring all documents necessary to their testimonies.

Charged, suspended

Meanwhile, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said at least three senators could be charged with plunder and suspended for their alleged involvement in the congressional pork barrel scam.

In a speech delivered at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia yesterday, Santiago said that the multi-billion pork barrel scam would be “one of the most bloodcurdling crimes” in Philippine political history.

“It now appears that at least three senators, not to speak of over 20 representatives, have been giving their pork barrel funds, not to the government departments as directed by law, but to non-government organizations that do not exist,” she said.

Santiago said that there was a clear violation of the law when the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was transferred to NGOs without following proper procedures.

Santiago said she expects the Inter-agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council composed of Justice Secretary De Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan to recommend preliminary investigation against legislators implicated in the scam.

Santiago again took exception to former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile for his alleged involvement in the anomaly, which she said could be even called “Enrilegate.”

On hold

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the release of the P14-billion balance of the P25-billion PDAF “is still on hold.”

Ochoa told the House of Representatives appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab that Aquino ordered all PDAF releases withheld in view of the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.

“The President’s order stands. The release is still on hold pending completion of the investigation,” he said.

Also during the hearing, Rep. Antonio Tinio of the party-list group Alliance of Concerned Teachers asked Ochoa about speculations on the Palace official’s supposed “links” to Napoles and former interior assistant secretary Brian Yamsuan.

“I do not know her,” Ochoa said, referring to Napoles. “As for Yamsuan, we terminated his services the moment we read in the newspapers that he was associated with Napoles.”

When asked about Erwin Santos, president of Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest), one of several state firms used by senators and congressmen as pork barrel fund conduits, Ochoa said he doesn’t know him.

‘Explain fund releases’

As this developed, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez asked Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to explain the release of pork barrel funds to Philforest, ignoring the request of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

“Secretary Abad should resign. Was it the President who ordered him to release the P500 million despite the appeal of Secretary Paje? This insults the adherence to the so-called ‘tuwid na daan (straight path)’ mantra of public service of this government,” he said.

Abad, however, said the 2011 national budget was prepared by the Arroyo administration when it was submitted to Congress in July 2010.

A petition to stop Malacañang from using hundreds of millions from Malampaya funds in projects not related to energy was also filed before the high court yesterday.

In a 10-page supplemental motion before the high court, losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica sought to nullify a provision of Presidential Decree 910, which allows the President to use Malampaya funds for other purposes.

He said Malampaya funds should only be used “to finance energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government.”

“The executive branch’s interpretation of ‘such other purpose’... renders Section 9 of PD 910 without a discernible standard since it does not provide ‘adequate guidelines or limitations’ to map out the ‘boundaries of the delegate’s authority’,” he said.

Name names

In a related development, the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) dared the camp of Napoles and whistleblower Benhur Luy to identify members of the press allegedly receiving “grease money” to twist the issue on the pork barrel scandal.

“By merely threatening to reveal this so-called list of media practitioners who are alleged ‘beneficiaries’ of payola money without actually naming them, this has put the credibility of the entire media in the country under a cloud of doubt. We also expect both sides to substantiate their allegation with hard-to-deny evidence,” NPC president Benny Antiporda said in reaction to the statement of the lawyers of Luy and Napoles. –With Jess Diaz, Sheila Crisostomo, Michelle Zoleta, Edu Punay

FROM THE INQUIRER

Senators fume over COA report on pork By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:20 am | Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Senators on Monday bristled at the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the alleged diversion of their pork barrel allotments to local government units (LGUs) through implementing agencies controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Sen. Loren Legarda in a text message said that she gave funding to projects in municipalities but that she never dealt “officially or unofficially” with the nongovernment organizations (NGOs). She was in a meeting when the Inquirer called, and did not reply to follow-up questions by text.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, for his part, dismissed what he called a rehash of an old COA story.

“Is there anything new? That’s an old report. The mayor wrote me a letter [explaining the project]. I can prove that to you,” Estrada tersely said by phone, indicating that the project was legitimate. He referred to Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Payumo.

Reacting to a DBM report that he coursed P15 million of his pork barrel for a project in Nueva Ecija through Napoles’ NGOs, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said he could not recall the specific project but said his office was reviewing all projects funded with his pork barrel.

“Out of the hundreds of requests, out of the hundreds of projects given, I could not recall that. The important thing is that our office is waiting for reports from the COA if there are irregularities,” he said by phone.

When told that the findings showed that the funds were disbursed without supporting documents, Sotto said: “That is not my work.”

Sotto appealed to the media to carefully sift through allegations and reports that have yet to be validated by the COA to avoid unduly implicating lawmakers in controversies.

“As far as I know, the COA has never questioned my office about any irregularities. Better check the source, it could be a bum steer (kuryente) or a demolition job,” he later said in a text message.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile declined to be interviewed on the pork barrel scam, while Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s staff said they would reply at the proper time.

Signature forged

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s staff said his PDAF releases to NGOs were being investigated.

Marcos also disowned his purported endorsement of a government corporation as the implementor of livelihood projects using P100 million of his pork barrel in 2012.

The denial came after COA team leader Magno Oasan confirmed the authenticity of Marcos’ signature in his endorsement letter to National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) in March 2012.

In that endorsement letter, Marcos also purportedly designated four NGOs as conduits in the implementation of the projects and designated his chief of staff, Ramon Cardenas, to sign documents.

The NGOs were Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (P5 million); Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (P25 million); Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (P25 million) and Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (P45 million).

In a statement, Marcos said he had written back Oasan to say that his signature was “not mine” and that he “never authorized” Cardenas or any person to deal with the NLDC.

Marcos said his staff, whom he instructed to investigate the matter, found out that his signature in the NLDC endorsement letter was falsified; the endorsement letter did not appear in the “docket system” of the senator’s office; the signatures of Cardenas in the memorandums of agreement with the four NGOs were falsified; and the MOAs were of dubious origin, among others.

The senator said the findings were transmitted to the COA “in the hope that this could aid” in its audit.

“When this scandal broke out, I purposely kept quiet—even when my name was constantly being dragged into this controversy,” he said in the statement.

“Instead, I instructed my office to conduct an investigation because I wanted to be very sure about what I would say since I didn’t want to misinform nor mislead the public,” he added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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