DBM: 'REALIGNMENT' OF DAP CALL ON 4 SENATORS

It may have released P370 million from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. between December 2011 and March 2012, but the “realignment” of the funds to Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus nongovernment organizations was entirely the four senators’ doing, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Friday. The DBM was also adamant in claiming that the four senators were not “early birds” in receiving DAP funds for their pet projects to dispel the notion that the funds were given to induce the senators to vote to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona, stressing that the funds were released only after Corona was found guilty by the Senate impeachment court. In a statement released on Friday by its public information unit, the DBM said the P370 million was first released to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in December 2011, the same month that the House of Representatives impeached Corona in one day. However, according to the DBM, the four senators then requested that the funds be realigned to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) which released the funds to the chosen foundations of the four in March 2012, in the middle of the Corona impeachment trial which ran from January to May 2012.

ALSO: ‘Senators called Dennis Cunanan’ De Lima: Testimony belies solons’ claims

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who are accused of plunder in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, knew all along that their allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were being used for fictitious projects, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday.De Lima told a news conference that Dennis Cunanan, former head of the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (now Technology Resource Center or TRC), had been admitted as a provisional state witness and would confirm being called up by the senators or their staff to release PDAF funds to phony aid organizations set up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.
“Cunanan’s proferred testimony flatly debunks or belies the claims of Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla that they were not the ones who selected the NGOs (nongovernment organizations) that implemented the projects funded by their PDAFs and that their signatures or those of their staffs or authorized representatives were forged or that they were not aware of the dealings between Napoles NGOs and the TRC,” De Lima said.

ALSO: More witnesses in ‘pork’ scam expected to surface, says Mar Roxas

Expect more Ruby Tuasons and Dennis Cunanans to surface in the coming days. Interior Secretary
Mar Roxas said Saturday that several persons with knowledge about the misuse of pork barrel allocations of some lawmakers had approached him to express their willingness to testify in connection with the multi-billion-peso racket. “Some were sounding off. Others have sent feelers,” Roxas told reporters at a celebration of the cityhood of this town, which is known as the country’s “sampaguita capital.” “But I did not entertain them. Instead, I immediately told them to go to the DOJ (Department of Justice) because it’s the government agency handling the investigation,” Roxas said. He refused to identify any of them or provide details about what they knew about the scam, which involves the funneling of up to P10 billion pesos in allocations from the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund to bogus non-governmental organizations of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

ALSO: Who will prosecute the prosecutors?

Once again, the Senate is on live TV. This we owe to the latest revelations by witness Ruby Chan “Tuason” against former Senate President, now-Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada, on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, reputedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, now charged and detained for another crime, but ironically not this one. “Tuason” began her narrative last week and quickly drew some praise for her “courageous” allegations against Estrada, and just as quickly reaped some flak from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago for allegedly “shielding” Enrile. But as in previous scam inquiries, the nation is once more being taken for a ride. The Senate is not a police precinct, a fiscal’s office or a prosecutorial body. Except in an impeachment trial, where the Senate is transformed into an impeachment court, the 24-man chamber does not have the power to acquit the innocent or convict the guilty. So the inquiry will produce sensational headlines, and the running reality show will be more widely watched than any “telenobela,” but it will produce not even a mouse at the end of the day. Even in instances where certain senators appear guilty, the Senate cannot lawfully investigate them unless and until a complaint has been brought against them before the Committee on Ethics and Privileges. This has jurisdiction over all matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its members. But neither Enrile nor Estrada nor Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the third senator being investigated by the Ombudsman, has been charged before this committee. In all criminal complaints against public officials, it is the Office of the Ombudsman that investigates and determines whether or not there is probable cause. Only upon such determination is the appropriate formal charge filed before the Sandiganbyan which then orders the arrest of the accused.

ALSO: No more DAP, Supreme Court told

What was not discussed seemed to weigh heavier at the much delayed second Supreme Court hearing
on the Disbursement Acceleration Program last Jan. 28. The DAP is a highfalutin’ label for the President’s power to realign savings throughout the executive branch. In the first session, petitioners led by former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin stated that, first, laws give specific definitions for “savings” and these were not met. Second, the power to realign may only be used to augment existing budget items, and the petitioners claimed funds were placed in new items. In summary, the power to realign cannot be abused such that the president single-handedly rewrites the budget or, as Justice Roberto Abad posited, allows him to impound funds. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad emphasized that every president since Corazon Aquino imposed mandatory savings. Realignment proved crucial for President Benigno Aquino III because reviewing dubious inherited projects drastically slowed spending but the DAP moved funds to “fast-moving, high-impact” projects such as the Sitio Electrification Program, payment of insurance premiums for 93,500 teachers, and the Project Noah disaster prevention system. Abad cited World Bank statistics to argue that the DAP stimulated the economy without new debt issuances or taxes (except for sin taxes). Abad ended by announcing that the DAP was no longer needed and had not been used since mid-2013. Responding to Justice Lucas Bersamin, finally, Abad emphasized that the DAP had “absolutely no relation to the impeachment [of Chief Justice Renato Corona].”


EARLIER REPORT: PNoy attacks ‘thieves’ who lump DAP with pork

"If you think you can get away with stealing, you are underestimating me and the Filipino people." This was President Aquino's pointed message Wednesday night to those trying to equate the pork barrel scam with his administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program. Delivered live on national TV, Aquino's counterattack marked the first time the President asked networks for airtime to "directly address the Filipino people," according to a Malacañang statement. "Kung sa tingin ninyo, titigil ako sa pag-usig; kung sa tingin ninyo, maililihis ninyo ang atensyon ng publiko; kung sa tingin ninyo, makakatakas kayo sa pagnanakaw, nagkakamali kayo ng tantya sa akin, at sa taumbayang Pilipino," he said. The televised message came after it was reported that there was an internal survey showing a drastic drop in Aquino's approval ratings. Complete with a slideshow presentation, Aquino expounded on the DAP and its supposed benefits to the public. Without mentioning names, he said personalities involved in the alleged misuse of PDAF are using the DAP issue to divert the public's attention as well as to smear his administration. "Baka po may nakakalimot sa atin: Pagnanakaw ang tunay na ugat ng isyung ito. Iyan po ang usapang pilit nilang tinatabunan, matapos mabisto ang kanilang kalokohan," he said, pointing out that none of those implicated in the pork barrel scam have denied the accusation.


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DBM says ‘realignment’ of DAP call of 4 senators


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Sen.Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Gil C. Cabacungan, Michael Lim Ubac - It may have released P370 million from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. between December 2011 and March 2012, but the “realignment” of the funds to Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus nongovernment organizations was entirely the four senators’ doing, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Friday.

The DBM was also adamant in claiming that the four senators were not “early birds” in receiving DAP funds for their pet projects to dispel the notion that the funds were given to induce the senators to vote to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona, stressing that the funds were released only after Corona was found guilty by the Senate impeachment court.

In a statement released on Friday by its public information unit, the DBM said the P370 million was first released to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in December 2011, the same month that the House of Representatives impeached Corona in one day.

However, according to the DBM, the four senators then requested that the funds be realigned to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) which released the funds to the chosen foundations of the four in March 2012, in the middle of the Corona impeachment trial which ran from January to May 2012.

“After the releases were made to DAR, however, the four senators requested the realignment of these funds to a different implementing agency, the National Livelihood Development Corp.,” the DBM said.

“The four senators essentially asked us to change the implementing agency from DAR to NLDC. In their requests, Senators Marcos, Estrada, Sotto and Revilla changed their nominated projects to programs for displaced or marginal families, for which NLDC was specified by the senators’ offices as the implementing arm,” the DBM said.

It thus withdrew the earlier special release allotment order (Saro) for the DAR and issued these instead to the NLDC in March 2012, “exactly as the senators requested,” the DBM said.

The state-owned NLDC has emerged as the implementing agency of choice for dubious projects proposed to be funded from senators’ and representatives’ pork barrel and DAP funds.

According to affidavits and documents submitted by the whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the NLDC was the main conduit used for billions of pesos of legislators’ pork barrel funds that ended up in seven fake Napoles-controlled NGOs carrying out nonexistent projects.

The NLDC, which is managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines, is the main lending agency for poor farmers in unserved, sparsely populated areas of the country.

The P370 million is part of the P475 million in funds that the DBM gave the DAR as lump sum allocations for six senators, to bankroll livelihood projects of local government units, which the Inquirer reported on Sept. 20, 2013.

Malacañang confirmed on Thursday that the P370 million that went to the four senators came from DAP—a little-known impounding mechanism for supposed government savings that came to light last September after Estrada said each senator who voted to convict Corona had received P50 million to P100 million in additional pork barrel funds as “incentive.”

Aside from Estrada, Sotto, Revilla and Marcos, the other recipients of the aborted DAR funds were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile (P55 million) and Loren Legarda (P50 million). The Inquirer has not yet verified where the funds of Enrile and Legarda went.

According to the DBM, the release of funds from the DAP for projects endorsed by the four senators was in response to fund requests from the senators’ offices in November 2011, a month after DAP was launched as a so-called “stimulus fund” that October.

In its statement, the DBM insisted that there were no “early birds” in the release of the DAP funds, claiming that several releases charged against DAP for various projects and programs were made from October to December 2011.

The releases for projects nominated by Marcos, Estrada, Sotto and Revilla were first made in December 2011, after their offices had submitted the proper requirements, it said.

“The fund releases for the projects backed by the four senators were originally made to DAR to support beneficiaries under the agency’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” said the DBM.

‘Senators called Dennis Cunanan’ De Lima: Testimony belies solons’ claims By Jerome Aning Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:35 am | Saturday, February 22nd, 2014


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/02/dennis-cunanan-2.jpg
Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan. PHOTO FROM www.dost.gov.ph

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who are accused of plunder in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, knew all along that their allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were being used for fictitious projects, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday.

De Lima told a news conference that Dennis Cunanan, former head of the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (now Technology Resource Center or TRC), had been admitted as a provisional state witness and would confirm being called up by the senators or their staff to release PDAF funds to phony aid organizations set up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.

“Cunanan’s proferred testimony flatly debunks or belies the claims of Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla that they were not the ones who selected the NGOs (nongovernment organizations) that implemented the projects funded by their PDAFs and that their signatures or those of their staffs or authorized representatives were forged or that they were not aware of the dealings between Napoles NGOs and the TRC,” De Lima said.

She said Cunanan submitted his sworn statement to the Ombudsman Friday morning.

De Lima said Cunanan offered to serve as state witness way back in September last year when the first PDAF-related plunder case was filed with him as one of the respondents.

“We think his (Cunanan) testimony is essential and corroborative to what our whistle-blowers, especially Benhur Luy, have said. Another angle of the story (PDAF scam) has been completed,” she added.

Cunanan stepped forward to tell what he knew about the pork barrel scam two days after President Benigno Aquino III told reporters that other whistle-blowers were coming out after socialite Ruby Tuason, also accused in the massive graft, returned from the United States on Feb. 7 and admitted that she served as Napoles’ bagman and delivered tens of millions of pesos in kickbacks to Estrada and Enrile’s chief aide, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.

Don’t look at us

But Malacañang denied that the President had a hand in Cunanan’s turning state witness.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Mr. Aquino was “speaking in general terms” when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday about new witnesses coming out soon.

Asked about the credibility of Tuason and Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ suspicion that she was a trojan horse working for Enrile, Mr. Aquino replied: “She’s not the only witness available. We have whistle-blowers and many are still coming out.”

The President’s statement did not mean Malacañang was behind the emergence of new whistle-blowers and had a “project to malign certain individuals,” Coloma said.

What the President was saying, Coloma said, was the “importance of uncovering the whole truth” in the pork barrel scam.
After De Lima’s announcement, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago drafted a resolution urging the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is investigating the pork barrel scam, to summon Cunanan to the next public hearing.

Santiago’s staff said she would file the resolution next Monday.

Desperate move

Joel Bodegon, a lawyer for Revilla, said Cunanan’s turning state witness was a desperate move by the government to beef up a “weak plunder case with fabricated testimonies that cannot be backed with credible evidence.”

“Is it that easy to escape liability in three plunder cases? Just say you received a phone call and that’s it?” Bodegon said.
Bodegon pointed to the government’s group of whistle-blowers and Cunanan as the guiltiest in the pork barrel scam.

Revilla’s main defense is that his signature was forged to indicate that he wanted implementing agencies to disburse millions of pesos from his PDAF allocation to Napoles’ dummy aid organizations.

“From the facts of the case, it appears that he (Cunanan) is one of the most guilty, along with Benhur Luy, in defrauding the government. He is part of the syndicate that sourced, handled and pocketed the funds,” Bodegon said.

Bodegon also questioned the circumstances surrounding Cunanan’s testimony.

“This is actually not new. It has been almost six months since Cunanan [began to peddle] these lies, and he was not admitted into the [Witness Protection Program] until now. What went on in those months? Many things could have already been discussed and agreed to,” Bodegon said.

“This is clear that what we are seeing is a contrived testimony,” he added.

Bodegon cast doubt on the propriety of taking in Cunanan as state witness and giving him government protection.

Under the witness protection law, he said, the Department of Justice can grant immunity only to witnesses under the Prosecution Service’s jurisdiction.

Bodegon said the justice department could not interfere with cases under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, “a separate constitutional entity, which can never be under the authority of the DOJ.”

“The DOJ is now intruding into the constitutional domain of the Ombudsman. Surely, the Ombudsman will not allow that,” Bodegon said.

He said Revilla’s camp was preparing a complaint for the disbarment of Levito Baligod, the whistle-blowers’ lawyer, for violation of the lawyers’ ethical standards.

“He is more than neck-deep in conflict of interest. He is the lawyer of the accusers, and now he is coming out lawyering for some of the accused. That can’t be,” Bodegon said.

There were no immediate comments on De Lima’s announcement from Estrada and Enrile.

Implementing agency

The TRC is one of the four implementing agencies implicated in the pork barrel scam. According to government investigators, Napoles’ aid organizations—the National Agribusiness Corp., National Livelihood Development Corp. and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.—were endorsed to the TRC as implementers of phantom projects and thus served as conduits for the PDAF funds.

Cunanan served as TRC deputy director general from 2004 to 2010, when he was appointed director general replacing Antonio Ortiz. Both Cunanan and Ortiz are respondents in the two PDAF suits filed by the National Bureau of Investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Cunanan painstakingly cited and discussed the contents of various documents—namely, letters of endorsement, special allocation release orders, memorandums of agreement, project summaries and project proposals—which had come into the TRC’s possession showing that the three senators indeed endorsed certain Napoles NGOs as implementers of the projects under TRC,” De Lima said.

‘Embedded implementers’

“These NGOs were actually ‘identified’ and ‘embedded’ as the ‘project implementers.’ And, in uniformly or similarly worded [memorandums of agreement] executed between the offices of the senators concerned, the TRC and the Napoles NGOs concerned, there is acknowledgment that the senator has endorsed the NGO as implementer of the projects and an express warranty by the senator that the selected NGO is ‘a legitimate and bona fide entity in good standing,’” she said.

De Lima said Cunanan also narrated the “pressures” exerted by the three senators on him and the “lobbying” made by several congressman in the TRC to expedite the release of funds to their chosen NGOs as project implementers.

In his 36-page sworn statement, excerpts of which were released by De Lima, Cunanan recalled phone calls from the offices of the three senators and talking either to their chiefs of staff as designated representatives or to the senators themselves.

Cunanan recounted speaking on the phone with Revilla who confirmed the authorization given to Revilla’s staff, lawyer Richard Cambe, for one project.

“He (Revilla) likewise confirmed to me the fact that he picked and endorsed the NGOs [that] will implement his PDAF-funded projects, and he even admonished me that now that I have been able to talk to him, the PDAF-funded projects of [the] NGO should proceed expeditiously from then on. I did not expect the admonition [from] Senator Revilla. However, I merely replied to him that I am just doing my job,” Cunanan said.

Project follow-up

In another instance, Cunanan said Luy personally went to the TRC to follow up pending projects endorsed by Estrada and Revilla. Cunanan said Luy called Revilla and Estrada’s offices and was able to reach the two senators.

“After initially speaking to some people on the other line, Benhur Luy gave me his phone and asked me to talk to Senator Revilla and later, Senator Estrada. I remember how both Senators Revilla and Estrada admonished me because they thought that the TRC was ‘delaying’ the projects. Both Senators Revilla and Estrada insisted that the TRC should honor their choice of NGO, which they selected to implement the projects, since the projects were funded from their PDAF.

They both asked me to ensure that the TRC would immediately act on and approve their respective projects,” Cunanan said.

Cunanan said he was “certain” he was talking to Revilla and Estrada “because I recognized their voices, which I am familiar with since they were both actors and public personalities whose voices I have frequently heard and I am very familiar with.”

“During our meeting, in an obvious attempt to pressure us to immediately approve the projects, he (Luy) took out his cellular phone and called the offices of Senators Revilla and Estrada,” Cunanan said.

Talking to Gigi

There was also a time when he spoke with Enrile’s chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, and her deputy, lawyer Antonio Evangelista, to form the projects and the authenticity of the signatures on the documents submitted by Enrile’s office for the release of his PDAF funds to an NGO.

“She confirmed to me that she and Attorney Evangelista were duly authorized by Senator Enrile. I know I was talking to Attorney Reyes then because it was the officially listed telephone number of Senator Enrile that I called and she introduced herself to me. She likewise confirmed the authenticity of their signatures in the supporting documents,” Cunanan said.

De Lima said Cunanan also named other lawmakers who allegedly lobbied the TRC for approval of PDAF-funded projects coursed through Napoles’ dummy NGOs.

When pressed by reporters, De Lima named two: Former Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon and former Cibac party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva, now director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Biazon and Villanueva are allies of President Aquino.

“Most of them have been charged, as for the rest, it’s still ongoing case buildup,” she said, adding that the alleged involvement of Villanueva and other lawmakers were being investigated.

Asked if Cunanan had known all along that the projects and the NGOs were fake and just being used to siphon off funds from the PDAF, De Lima said Cunanan “noticed there [was] something wrong with the NGOs.”

“That’s why when he took over as director general, he instituted certain measures and protocols within the TRC to make the accreditation of NGOs stricter,” she said.

De Lima pointed out, however, that one reason why Cunanan and other implementing agency officials were included in the complaint was because “legally, they had responsibility to make sure that they are dealing with legitimate NGOs [and that] they should have been stricter in processing [the NGOs and and projects].”

De Lima said it did not matter that Cunanan was not personally contacted by Enrile or vice versa.

“It does not matter to us. We are not worried about that at all. It just shows that it’s true that he (Enrile) has in fact given blanket authority to Attorney Reyes,” De Lima said, adding that Cunanan’s testimony matches the disclosures of Luy and Tuason that Reyes was “acting for and on behalf of” of Enrile.

Reply to Revilla

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Friday hit back at Revilla for trying to link him a month ago to an alleged attempt by President Aquino to influence him to vote for the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Revilla disclosed the alleged attempt in a privilege speech.

In a three-paragraph statement in Filipino sent to reporters, Roxas said he pitied Revilla, “my former colleague at the Senate.”

“He says just about anything just to cover up the truth. My advice, he should be honest. He should stop inventing scripts. This is not the movies. This is real life wherein there is accountability to every action done,” Roxas said.

“I repeat, Senator Revilla’s problem is Benhur Luy and the other whistle-blowers and the COA (Commission on Audit) documents that repeatedly say that he (Revilla) gave his [PDAF] funds to the fake NGOs of Napoles,” Roxas said.

“If there are other witnesses who would surface and implicate him in this case, it is no longer our fault. It is better for him to answer the accusations leveled against him and explain the official documents linking him to the Napoles scam,” Roxas said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Nikko Dizon

More witnesses in ‘pork’ scam expected to surface, says Mar Roxas By Marlon Ramos Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:37 pm | Saturday, February 22nd, 2014


Interior Secretary Mar Roxas: I tried to end siege. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

CITY OF SAN PEDRO, Philippines—Expect more Ruby Tuasons and Dennis Cunanans to surface in the coming days.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Saturday that several persons with knowledge about the misuse of pork barrel allocations of some lawmakers had approached him to express their willingness to testify in connection with the multi-billion-peso racket.

“Some were sounding off. Others have sent feelers,” Roxas told reporters at a celebration of the cityhood of this town, which is known as the country’s “sampaguita capital.”

“But I did not entertain them. Instead, I immediately told them to go to the DOJ (Department of Justice) because it’s the government agency handling the investigation,” Roxas said.

He refused to identify any of them or provide details about what they knew about the scam, which involves the funneling of up to P10 billion pesos in allocations from the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund to bogus non-governmental organizations of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

“What’s happening now is that several individuals are rushing to become witnesses now that the likes of Tuason and Cunanan have come forward. They would corroborate the testimonies and documents provided by Benhur Luy,” he said.

“It’s up to the DOJ to determine if their claims are material or baseless. The DOJ is the appropriate agency.”

Roxas distanced himself from Cunanan, saying he had never met with the former head of the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (now Technology Resource Center) who has been admitted as a provisional witness of the DOJ in the plunder case filed against several lawmakers.

Roxas laughed off the allegation of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. that he was behind Cunanan’s decision to testify and corroborate the testimonies of whistleblower Benhur Luy and other witnesses.

“I don’t have anything to do with the testimony of Mr. Cunanan. I do not know him. I have never spoken to him. I’m not his instigator as (Revilla) claimed,” he said.

“I pity my friend, Senator Revilla, because it appears that he doesn’t know how to face the evidence provided by Benhur Luy and COA (Commission on Audit). I’m not his enemy,” he added.

Roxas said Revilla should realize that “this is not a movie. There is no plot or collusion to bring him down.”

“Unlike in the movies, you cannot invent a script regarding this. This is real life. You are responsible for every action you make,” Roxas said.

MANILA STANDARD

Who will prosecute the prosecutors? By Francisco S. Tatad | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am

Once again, the Senate is on live TV. This we owe to the latest revelations by witness Ruby Chan “Tuason” against former Senate President, now-Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada, on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, reputedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, now charged and detained for another crime, but ironically not this one. “Tuason” began her narrative last week and quickly drew some praise for her “courageous” allegations against Estrada, and just as quickly reaped some flak from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago for allegedly “shielding” Enrile.

But as in previous scam inquiries, the nation is once more being taken for a ride. The Senate is not a police precinct, a fiscal’s office or a prosecutorial body. Except in an impeachment trial, where the Senate is transformed into an impeachment court, the 24-man chamber does not have the power to acquit the innocent or convict the guilty. So the inquiry will produce sensational headlines, and the running reality show will be more widely watched than any “telenobela,” but it will produce not even a mouse at the end of the day.

Even in instances where certain senators appear guilty, the Senate cannot lawfully investigate them unless and until a complaint has been brought against them before the Committee on Ethics and Privileges. This has jurisdiction over all matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its members.

But neither Enrile nor Estrada nor Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the third senator being investigated by the Ombudsman, has been charged before this committee.

In all criminal complaints against public officials, it is the Office of the Ombudsman that investigates and determines whether or not there is probable cause. Only upon such determination is the appropriate formal charge filed before the Sandiganbyan which then orders the arrest of the accused.

Since the Ombudsman is already investigating the senators, any “evidence” which the Department of Justice has developed in support of that investigation should be exhibited before the Ombudsman, not before any committee of Congress.

Thus, whether or not “Tuason” is telling the truth about the monies she claims to have delivered to the senators from 2004 to 2008 is not the question we should be asking at this point. The question we should be asking is simply whether the Senate is the right forum to air such “evidence.”

For if what she says is true, then the senators must be made to answer for it; but they could be made to answer for it only if they were brought to court, which alone can try and decide their cases, not to the Senate, which does not have the necessary competence.

To make the point more explicit, all Senate inquiries are only “inquiries in aid of legislation.” The Senate blue ribbon committee, which is conducting the “inquiry,” has not given anyone any clue on what pending or prospective legislation it seeks or aims to “aid” by its inquiry.

The canonical search for truth and justice is often cited as a justification, but what is more obvious in this case is the effort to create a publicity platform from where the administration could attack its political enemies for alleged corruption, while covering all involvements of the President, his Cabinet officials and his congressional allies in the massive misuse of the pork barrel system.

Together with the senators, the “witness” is one of those charged before the Ombudsman of alleged involvement in the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam. To save herself from possible prosecution she struck a deal with the Department of Justice to provide “evidence” against the senators.

However her testimony consisted of nothing but mere words without any supporting evidence. Ordinarily, the word of a witness is not without value, but “Tuason” appears to have sailed into some credibility problem when she failed to tell the Senate her correct personal circumstances.

She used to work as social secretary to then-President, now-Manila Mayor, Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada, and she signs her name as Ruby Chan Tuason. But Erap says she was never legally married to her deceased partner, Carlos Tuason, and therefore can only sign her maiden name Chan, not Tuason. Does that not impair her credibility?

Equally intriguing is the position of the DOJ. On the 4th day of February, the chief of International Operations Division of the National Bureau of Investigation, Daniel Daganzo, obtained a sworn statement from Ms. Chan inside the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, CA. She executed her statement in the presence of her lawyers, Dennis Manalo and Benedicto Valerio.

By sending the NBI to California, the DOJ spent taxpayers’ money to obtain “evidence” to support the complaint before the Ombudsman against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. No less than Justice Secretary Leila de Lima tried to pre-sell Chan’s testimony by calling it “slam dunk” evidence, using basketball lingo. Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable defines “slam dunk” as “a forceful shot (‘dunk’) in which the player thrusts (‘slams’) the ball through the basket with both hands from above the rim.”

But instead of using Chan’s testimony to wrap up the Ombudsman’s investigation and finally bring the appropriate case against the senators before the Sandigan, the DOJ released Chan to the Senate committee to get the Blue Ribbon circus going. Why did the DOJ do this? What is the real game plan? Has the DOJ become an adjunct, the investigating arm of the Committee? Or is Malacañang simply interested in trying Enrile, Estrada and Revilla by publicity, never really in developing a case that would stand up in court against them?

It is important to note that Napoles, whose photographs with Aquino and Senate President Franklin Drilon could easily occupy a modest section of a huge photo gallery, was royally received in, and escorted out of Malacañang by the President himself in August of last year. She is now reported to be able to go in and out of her maximum security detention facility in Laguna in style. Despite the apparent preponderance of evidence, she has not been formally charged of plunder before the anti-graft court. She is under detention for the alleged kidnapping of Benhur Luy, her erstwhile employee, but not in connection with the alleged P10-billion scam. Why?

That said, can Malacañang charge the senators before the Sandigan without first or also charging Napoles, who may actually enjoy the President’s personal protection? And assuming Napoles is also formally charged, can Malacañang hope to prove conspiracy without allowing Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the heads of implementing agencies and the COA to be charged too?

It is quite apparent that Napoles and the legislators alone could not have swung any of their “bogus” deals, using ghost foundations as conduits, without the knowledge, cooperation and consent of the DBM, the COA and the implementing agencies.

For as long as the play is limited to the Senate, Aquino could continue posturing that he still wants to pursue his “daang matuwid,” even while pursuing the exact opposite. This is where the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee comes in. But it suffers from a serious moral deficit.

By what right can Sen. Teofisto Guingona III and his committee dare to investigate any of their colleagues for any alleged wrongdoing when they themselves have not been investigated for their own crimes? Have they not misused their own Priority Development Assistance Funds, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional in its landmark ruling of Nov. 19, 2013, and have they not received P50 million or more each from Malacañang after they had voted to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at his 2012 Senate impeachment trial?

Shouldn’t all them discharge themselves from the Senate, instead of strutting like peacocks with their thoroughly tarred feathers? Should they still want to be useful without being hypocritical, they could even now summon the Executive Secretary and the Budget Secretary to render a complete listing of how the PDAF was used from, say, 2004 until it was declared unconstitutional on Nov. 19, 2013, and how the Disbursement Acceleration Program was used from the time of its purported creation in 2011 until its reported abolition last year.

They could summon the Commission on Audit chair to submit a complete and thoroughly updated COA Report showing how many legislators, other than the three handpicked “opposition senators”, should be charged before the Ombudsman for their alleged misuse of their pork barrel.

Finally, they could ask the COA chair to explain why she should not be impeached for failing to deliver until the 6,000 Notices of Disallowances which she had promised to deliver at the earliest time last November.

They can do all these, and they should do all these for as long as they do not find the decency and the courage to vacate their Senate seats. But they should never attempt to investigate anyone accused of wrongdoing unless they have clean hands. And they do not have clean hands.

In the SC ruling penned by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, which declared the Pork Barrel System unconstitutional, the Court directed “all prosecutorial organs of the government to, within the bounds of reasonable dispatch, investigate and accordingly prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under the Pork Barrel System.”

This has rendered the Senate inquiry even more irrelevant. The order of the day is to go after the crooks and send them all to jail, even at the risk of vacating the entire Executive Department and Congress. Unfortunately those who are charged with the duty to prosecute may not be less guilty than their targets.

INQUIRER Commentary

No more DAP, Supreme Court told
By Oscar Franklin Tan Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:48 am | Thursday, January 30th, 2014


Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA -What was not discussed seemed to weigh heavier at the much delayed second Supreme Court hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program last Jan. 28. The DAP is a highfalutin’ label for the President’s power to realign savings throughout the executive branch.

In the first session, petitioners led by former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin stated that, first, laws give specific definitions for “savings” and these were not met. Second, the power to realign may only be used to augment existing budget items, and the petitioners claimed funds were placed in new items. In summary, the power to realign cannot be abused such that the president single-handedly rewrites the budget or, as Justice Roberto Abad posited, allows him to impound funds.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad emphasized that every president since Corazon Aquino imposed mandatory savings.

Realignment proved crucial for President Benigno Aquino III because reviewing dubious inherited projects drastically slowed spending but the DAP moved funds to “fast-moving, high-impact” projects such as the Sitio Electrification Program, payment of insurance premiums for 93,500 teachers, and the Project Noah disaster prevention system.

Abad cited World Bank statistics to argue that the DAP stimulated the economy without new debt issuances or taxes (except for sin taxes). Abad ended by announcing that the DAP was no longer needed and had not been used since mid-2013. Responding to Justice Lucas Bersamin, finally, Abad emphasized that the DAP had “absolutely no relation to the impeachment [of Chief Justice Renato Corona].”

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza then reminded the justices that a national budget is far more complex than a household’s, an example floated in the preceding hearing. He emphasized that government spending multiplies into economic stimulus and expensive interest is paid for our debt.

Jardaleza argued that the budget process is “textually committed” to the political branches and because there are no “judicially manageable standards,” it is left to their judgment. Thus, he proposed that Congress, not the high court, must shape and police the definition of “savings.”

This was inspired legal philosophy invoking the political branches’ duty to interpret the Constitution, a theory prominently used by then Justice Reynato Puno to argue that the Senate should have ruled on the validity of the impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. in 2003.

Jardeleza then asserted that because the DAP has ceased to exist, any challenge to it as a program or concept is moot and that petitioners must attack the validity of any or all of 116 projects funded by it. He promised that information on all 116 would be filed at the high court by Feb. 5.

These documents would prove that legal rules defining savings and augmenting existing budget items were met.

Jardeleza stressed that criticisms against the DAP were “demonstrably false,” and protested descriptions such as it being a budget within a budget and a scheme to invent savings. Finally, he produced several memoranda signed by the President, refuting Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s additional argument that realignment is only valid if conducted by the President and not one of his cabinet secretaries.

Carpio pressed hardest regarding budget minutiae such as the difference between a project’s termination and its abandonment. He asked, for example, how a capital allocation can be abandoned after six months and deemed savings if the law provides a two-year period to solicit bids.

Faced with specifics, Jardeleza conceded that the law might be written better, but argued that a certain flexibility is required in implementing the budget. As an example, he presented a letter from Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya informing the President relatively early in the year that certain funds would not likely be spent and suggested these be declared savings that could be realigned.

In response, Carpio asked rhetorically whether the national budget is a law that the President is sworn to faithfully execute. Jardeleza responded that if all budgets were implemented as planned, there would have been no need for the DAP. Indeed, questioning by Justices Lucas Bersamin and Marvic Leonen touched on how the budget is just an estimate, and the President must in fact choose what to fund if revenues fall below target.

The DAP’s fate will be interesting because unconstitutionality cannot be cured by wise projects and lack of corruption. On the other hand, Jardeleza masterfully reshaped the case such that he can no longer lose. With the DAP terminated, the high court might issue guidelines against it, but the projects are a fait accompli unless the high court goes to the extreme step of unwinding them, which it will not without scrutiny of Jardeleza’s 116 sets of documents. Jardeleza thus reduced the stakes to his ego, of which he is perfectly capable of letting go.

However the DAP is decided, credit must go to Abad for personally appearing alongside Jardeleza and responding to a lawsuit with the welcome whiff of delicadeza of releasing the 116 sets of documents. Further, it is admirable how the DAP case is proceeding as an intellectual exercise with no political overtones or further allegations of ghost projects. To Abad and Jardeleza’s great credit, people may well respect them even more if they lose their biggest case yet.

The author: Oscar Franklin Tan (@oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan) won an unprecedented second Justice Irene R. Cortes Prize in constitutional law for his research on constitutional interpretation by the political branches (The 2004 Canvass, 79 Phil. L.J. 39 (2004)).

EARLY REPORT FROM GMA NEWS TV

PNoy attacks ‘thieves’ who lump DAP with pork By KIMBERLY JANE TAN,GMA NewsOctober 30, 2013 7:46pm

"If you think you can get away with stealing, you are underestimating me and the Filipino people."

This was President Aquino's pointed message Wednesday night to those trying to equate the pork barrel scam with his administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program. Delivered live on national TV, Aquino's counterattack marked the first time the President asked networks for airtime to "directly address the Filipino people," according to a Malacañang statement.

"Kung sa tingin ninyo, titigil ako sa pag-usig; kung sa tingin ninyo, maililihis ninyo ang atensyon ng publiko; kung sa tingin ninyo, makakatakas kayo sa pagnanakaw, nagkakamali kayo ng tantya sa akin, at sa taumbayang Pilipino," he said.

The televised message came after it was reported that there was an internal survey showing a drastic drop in Aquino's approval ratings.

Complete with a slideshow presentation, Aquino expounded on the DAP and its supposed benefits to the public. Without mentioning names, he said personalities involved in the alleged misuse of PDAF are using the DAP issue to divert the public's attention as well as to smear his administration.

"Baka po may nakakalimot sa atin: Pagnanakaw ang tunay na ugat ng isyung ito. Iyan po ang usapang pilit nilang tinatabunan, matapos mabisto ang kanilang kalokohan," he said, pointing out that none of those implicated in the pork barrel scam have denied the accusation.

"Napapailing na nga lang po ako, dahil ang una kong inasahan, papabulaanan nila ang mga akusasyon. 'Di po ba’t iyan ang natural na tugon ng kahit sinong akusado? Sa hinaba-haba ng mga kontra-paratang na ibinabato sa atin, ni minsan, hindi ko narinig ang katagang at statement na 'Hindi ako nagnakaw'," Aquino said.

Old man's advice

He specifically said those accused probably just followed the advice of an old politician from their camp to muddle the issue.

"Kung hindi mo kayang ipaliwanag, palabuin mo na lang lahat; kung hindi mo kayang bumango, pabahuin mo na lang lahat; kung hindi mo kayang gumuwapo, papangitin mo na lang lahat. Narinig naman ninyo ang hirit nila: Pare-pareho lang naman daw kaming lahat," Aquino said.

He quickly added: "Hindi tayo pareho. Hindi kami nagnakaw, at hindi kami magnanakaw; kami ang umuusig sa magnanakaw."

The DAP, the constitutionality of which is being questioned before the Supreme Court, became an issue after Senator Jinggoy Estrada bared that he and other senators who favored former Chief Justice Renato Corona's ouster in May last year received P50 million each in additional funds months after the impeachment trial.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has admitted that the funds came from the DAP, but maintained these were not bribes or incentives for senators. He said the DAP fund, which are basically realigned savings, were released to address sluggish government spending in 2011.

Estrada, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla, was among the respondents in a plunder and malversation complaint filed by the Department of Justice in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.

'Pork Barrel King'

"Pagnanakaw ang isyu dito. Hindi ako nagnakaw. Pero ang mga diumano'y nagnakaw ay siyang nagpapasimuno ng kalituhan; gustong kaladkarin pababa ang lahat ng ating pinaghirapang maabot dito sa tuwid na daan," said Aquino in his speech.

"Tayo ang ninakawan, tayo ang niloko, tapos tayo pa ngayon ang pinagpapaliwanag. Tayo ang patuloy na naghahanap ng katotohanan, tayo ang nagbawas nang nagbawas sa mga mekanismong maaaring gamitin para abusuhin ang kapangyarihan? Tapos, tayo pa ngayon ang pinaparatangang 'Pork Barrel King,'" he added.

Aquino said the PDAF should not be confused with the DAP because it has helped the country.

"Linawin na rin po natin: Hindi pork barrel ang Disbursement Acceleration Program," he said, noting that only nine percent of DAP releases from 2011 to 2012 went to projects recommended by lawmakers.

"Hindi rin po pagnanakaw ang DAP. Ang pagnanakaw, ilegal; ang paggastos gamit ang DAP, malinaw na nakasaad sa Konstitusyon at sa iba pang mga batas," he added.

Benefits of the DAP

In explaining the benefits of DAP, Aquino said the DAP are sourced from savings and are funneled to agencies that are able to finish projects immediately and efficiently.

Aquino specifically said that the DAP was used to fund Project NOAH, which has helped warn the country against typhoons, and TESDA's Training-for-Work Scholarship program, which has helped 150,000 students.

He also said DAP has helped the Air Force and the police; the construction of roads, classrooms, and hospitals in Mindanao and other parts of the country; and restoration of the benefits of DepEd employees.

Using the DAP, he said the government also boosted the economy.

"Hindi ba’t noong sila ang nasa poder, 'Sick Man of Asia' ang tawag sa atin? Ngayon, mamili na kayo sa mga bagong bansag sa atin ng mundo: Asia's fastest growing economy, Rising Tiger, Brightest Spark," Aquino said.

"Ang pag-angat na ito, at ang tinatamasang benepisyo ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ng mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan – ito po ang bunga ng tamang paggastos, sa halip na pagnanakaw. Ang perang dating kino-corrupt, napakinabangan na ng taumbayan, lalo na ng mahihirap," he added.

Aside from the DAP, the President also used the televised message to defend the President's Social Fund, saying it was used to help victims of the Zamboanga crisis.

"May pera naman po, at may sapat tayong mekanismo upang siguruhing mapupunta ito sa dapat kalagyan. Tama bang ipagkait ang kalinga sa ating mga kababayan?" he asserted.

Previously resistant

Aquino was previously resistant against criticisms against the PDAF, which he said is needed to address the concerns of communities which the national government cannot reach.

"Wala pong mali o masama sa polisiyang ito. Ang mali, ang masama, at ang siya ngang ikinagagalit ng taumbayan, ay ang pagsasabwatan sa pagitan ng isang pangulong handang makipagtransaksyon para manatili sa kapangyarihan; mga mambabatas handang makipagkuntsabahan; at kung nariyan ang kooperasyon ng burukrasya; at mga mamamayang tila namanhid na sa panlalapastangang ginagawa sa kanila," he said in his earlier speech.

But he changed his tune and called for its abolition just before the largest mass action during his term was held. — KBK/HS/KG, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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