MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Michael Punongbayan - President Aquino, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, six other government officials and three private individuals were charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday for their alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) filed the complaint against Aquino even though a sitting president is immune from suit, and urged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate him for purposes of impeachment based on the so-called Doctrine of Qualified Political Agency. The doctrine states that “acts committed by the department secretaries under the executive department are deemed acts of the President.”

“Since there was no reprobation or disapproval coming from President Aquino regarding their actions, it can be easily inferred that the President acquiesced to such acts,” the KMP, led by deputy secretary-general Wilfredo Marbella, said, referring to Alcala and Abad’s alleged illegal acts.

“The department secretaries are his alter ego. Their act is an act of the President. Hence, his involvement in the scam should be investigated,” the KMP said.

The other respondents are Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta, head executive assistant in the Office of the Agriculture Secretary Arnulfo Mañalac, DA assistant secretaries Salvador Salacup and Ophelia Agawin, director of DA internal audit service Irene Alogoc, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles and her brother John Reynald Lim, as well as whistle-blower Merlina Suñas.

Abad and Relampagos were charged as principals for their “indispensable cooperation” and for “blindly” signing and releasing the Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation to the DA “without conducting thorough review of the requests for issuance of SARO and NCA.”

Fleta, as DA undersecretary for administration and finance, was charged for allegedly being directly responsible for the accreditation of non-government organizations, including fake or bogus NGOs of Napoles.

KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores said the plunder charge against Aquino and his Cabinet officials is an “acid test” for the ombudsman.

“The ombudsman has the power to investigate even a sitting president as the Filipino people have every right to know his participation in the pork barrel scam. Aquino cannot hide under the mantle of presidential immunity,” he said in a statement.

Impeach Aquino

Sen. JV Ejercito said the President could also be impeached over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Ejercito noted that the realignment of national government savings by the executive, which was coursed through legislators under the DAP, was unconstitutional.

“You cannot just realign to different programs. That is called malversation. If it is not in the budget approved by Congress, then it is illegal to use it for other purposes,” he said. – With Marvin Sy, Ding Cervantes, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin

Recto: Prudence should've been exercised in DAP issue By Christina Mendez (philstar.com) | Updated October 2, 2013 - 6:15pm 9 246 googleplus0 0

Sen. Ralph Recto

MANILA, Philippines - It would have been better if some senators and the executive branch, especially the Budget Department, exercised prudence in the disbursement of pork barrel funds during and after the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Senator Ralph Recto said on Wednesday.

Recto made the statement when sought for comment over the revelations of former Sen. Joker Arroyo that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released over P500-million in priority development assistance fund (PDAF) before the conviction of Corona sometime on April and May last year.

Recto said he did not submit a request for release of his PDAF allocations out of prudence.

“I did not submit for a request because it does not look good. I don’t say that the others were wrong,” Recto said.

Recto explained that asking for funds at the height of the impeachment trial was not a good move. “I know there was impeachment. To me prudence dictates, that I did not request. Maybe the others requested earlier and it released at that time,” Recto said.

Recto is not among the 11 senators who got releases out of their PDAF before the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, handed the guilty verdict against Corona. He said, however, that such PDAF releases should not be misconstrued as bribing any of the senator-judges.

“I’ve been a congressman and a senator for some time, it is hard to believe that you can bribe a senator. That is my experience here,” Recto said.

Based on the DBM website, over P500 million in PDAF were divided among now Senate President Franklin Drilon (P40 million), Senators Chiz Escudero (P98 million), Ramon Revilla (P86 million), Edgardo Angara (P25 million), Pia Cayetano (P55 million), Jinggoy Estrada (P50M), Lito Lapid (P50 million), Manny Villar (P49 million), Antonio Trillanes (P10 million), Gregorio Honasan (P42 million) and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (P54 million).

Twenty senator-judges came under fire after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed that they received P50 million each as incentive for convicting Corona. It was later learned that the amounts came from the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which is under the discretion of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Recto was not in the Senate from 2007 to 2009. He returned to the Senate in 2010. Corona was impeached in December 2011, and the Senate convened as an impeachment court early 2012. The conviction was handed down by May of the same year.

Recto was cautious on his statement when asked if the pooling of savings from the national budget then placing it into one Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is illegal or not.

While he recognized that the president may have powers to re-align some portions of the budget, Recto said the heart of the matter is whether the chief executive used his powers prudently.

“I will always give them a benefit of the doubt. It is hard to say outright that it is illegal. There are laws which say that the president has a power to realign the budget. The issue is using your power prudently as well, and the proper budgeting,” Recto said.

As lesson to plug the loopholes in the managing of the budget, Recto proposed that the budget be itemized one by one so that it will be clearer where the funds will go.

“Of course, I realize that the president needs some flexibility. The chief executive needs flexibility. But I don’t think that about one-fourth of the budget or more (will have room) for flexibility.” Recto said.

Recto believes that the controversy on the use of DAP would have been prevented if the executive department consulted with the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“It is always better if there are consultations with members of Congress. He cited for example that a governor cannot merely realign budgets, it needs an approval of the Sangguniang Bayan,” Recto noted.

“Whether it is abuse, it is another issue. But yes the president can realign legally. Whether it is prudent to do it is another issue. To what extent can he realign the budget,” Recto said.

On the plunder issues being filed against the president and his allies, Recto appealed to the media to be careful on the matter.

As this developed, Sen. Chiz Escudero said the disbursement and use of the PDAF by legislators should be open to public scrutiny to ensure transparency and accountability.

Escudero issued the call to his fellow lawmakers to open their books to the Filipino people amid the reported misuse and abuse of the PDAF, which was originally intended to finance the pet projects of senators and congressmen.

“Whether it’s PDAF, pork barrel or DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is immaterial,” he said.

Escudero said the important issues are transparency and accountability.

“At the end of the day, as public officials entrusted with public funds, we should be able to explain to the public how these were disbursed and used,” said Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.

Escudero said how each lawmaker allocated and used every single centavo earmarked for the PDAF should be made public and accessible to all stakeholders for scrutiny in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

“This is a challenge to my fellow legislators: reveal how you spent public funds. We owe it to our constituents, we owe it to our taxpayers,” he said in a press statement. He however did not discuss the issue on the PDAF amounts released to him prior to Corona’s conviction.

Since Escudero started availing of the special budget for legislators’ pet projects in 2010, he has posted on his website (www.chizescudero.com) the detailed allocation of his PDAF to local government units (LGUs) across the country. The senator did not receive any PDAF during the Arroyo administration.

Escudero said all the allocations he received under the PDAF had been properly accounted for and open to scrutiny by the Commisssion on Audit (COA) and the public.

“All releases and disbursements to LGUs which had sought my assistance were transparent and verifiable. These can be scrutinized by COA and the public anytime,” he said.

Escudero also sought to clarify the “confusion” surrounding the P96 million (not P99 million as earlier reported) he had requested DBM to download to local LGUs to finance their requests for repairs of specialty hospitals and construction of public markets.

The whole P96 million released by the DBM through its DAP covered the project funding requests that went directly to LGUs in the cities and municipalities of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Cavite, Rizal, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan, among others, mostly for infrastructure projects and medical help.

Majority of the LGUs received P500,000 each for the construction and rehabilitation of their public markets.

Since the senator started using his PDAF in 2010, he had only funded infrastructure projects and medical assistance through various LGUs, as well as improvement of regional and specialty hospitals.

Corona lawyer slams move to cover up P50M PDAF incentive By Christina Mendez (philstar.com) | Updated September 27, 2013 - 6:59pm 24 455 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - A member of the defense team of former Chief Justice Renato Corona lamented on Friday the alleged attempts by some administration allies to coverup the P 50-million incentive given to each of the senator-judges who voted for Corona’s conviction during the impeachment trial last year.

Lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho noted how Sen. Jinggoy Estrada exposed himself to the people when he revealed about the P50-million in reward provided to senators who convicted Corona.

“First, it was clear on Sen. Estrada’s speech that the P50 million was released to senators to convict Corona. The release of priority development assistance fund (PDAF) has been positively confirmed by other senators,” Quicho told The Star on Friday.

“Whether or not it is bribery, rests on the conscience of each senator,” he added.

Despite denials by allies, Quicho saw a pattern under the Aquino administration where key personalities instrumental during the impeachment received rewards from the administration.

“But, this one is clear, receiving PDAF after the impeachment reeks of impropriety,” he said.

“The totality of the acts of the administration after the impeachment would show that rewards were given to senators through PDAF, private prosecutors to government posts, and public prosecutors with their re-elections,” Quicho said.

The rewards which came in the form of re-election and appointments to government posts “are well-documented and open to public scrutiny.”

“All contrary to the Daang Matuwid program. The statement of Rep. Miro is tries to cover-up the truth, which is not surprising anymore,” Quicho said.

Quicho also expressed disgust against Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo who said Corona could not claim that Estrada’s revelation was a vindication for him or that of his ouster was against the Constitution.

Another former Corona lawyer, Joel Bodegon, also had good points to say about Estrada’s speech.

Bodegon said Estrada rightfully appealed to get a fair and equal treatment from his colleagues and the public.

“From what I heard him say, he was pleading for fairness and equal treatment. He was in effect invoking the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” Bodegon said.

Bodegon, who is also counsel of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr, said he does not think that the senator ratted on his colleagues.

“Rather, he was asking for everyone to face up to the fact that no one should cast stone at him unless that one was not affected by the defects of the system,” he said.

Bodegon also compared Estrada’s situation during the Corona impeachment trial when Corona challenged the senators and congressmen that they, too, should show their own statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

“I do not even think he confessed to any wrongdoing as he spoke more of the defects of the system that affected everyone and spared no one,” Bodegon said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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