GUINGONA'S BID TO END PORK SCAM INQUIRY EXPOSES NEW SPLIT

A plan to prematurely terminate the P10-billion pork barrel scam hearing without looking into non-government organizations (NGOs) not associated with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles threatens to create a rift in the majority bloc of the chamber as Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, (photo at your right), expressed his objection yesterday into the possible termination of the Senate inquiry. Escudero said the probe of the scam should include uncovering other syndicate-like groups disguising as non-government organizations (NGOs), at least 74 others, are yet to be unmasked.
Pursuing the individuals behind the 74 alleged bogus NGOs could lead to more names, insofar as lawmakers are concerned, as purported cohorts in the misuse of billions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Escudero added.

ALSO: PNoy eyes talks with Biazon

Coloma Hints Of ‘Changes’ After Customs Chief’s Inclusion In ‘Pork’ Charges.  Malacañang yesterday said President Benigno S. Aquino III is planning to talk to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon after he was charged with 33 others in connection with the pork barrel scam.

 

MANILA, DECEMBER 2, 2013 (TRIBUNE) Written by Angie M. Rosales - A plan to prematurely terminate the P10-billion pork barrel scam hearing without looking into non-government organizations (NGOs) not associated with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles threatens to create a rift in the majority bloc of the chamber as Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, (photo at your right), expressed his objection yesterday into the possible termination of the Senate inquiry.

Escudero said the probe of the scam should include uncovering other syndicate-like groups disguising as non-government organizations (NGOs), at least 74 others, are yet to be unmasked.

Pursuing the individuals behind the 74 alleged bogus NGOs could lead to more names, insofar as lawmakers are concerned, as purported cohorts in the misuse of billions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Escudero added.

Escudero, who was the first among his colleagues to file a resolution to look into the alleged scam of the detained Napoles and the syndicate she operated to siphon off money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of legislators, expressed his misgivings in the planned move of blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III (photo at left) to wrap up the proceedings anytime soon.

“If it is only up to me, I will already wrap up the Napoles PDAF scam because I feel that my objectives have been met. However, this is not yet final since this will be subject to consultation with the other members of the committee if we will continue the probe or shift to Malampaya scam,” Guingona said in a statement last Friday.

While it’s the decision of the committee chairman and members as to their next move, Escudero said the panel should consider the possibility of continuing the probe and spread the net wider to include the non-Napoles NGOS.

“I would defer to whatever will be the decision of the majority. Secondly, cases had already been filed against Napoles et al or others supposed involved,” he said.

“But remember, there are 82 (alleged bogus) NGOs identified by the CoA (Commission on Audit) in their special audit report and only eight were identified with Napoles. So there’s 74 other NGOs of supposedly the same modus operandi as that of Napoles group that amassed a much bigger fund,” Escudero said on radio.

The senator also took note of reports that a number of supposed whistleblowers on the 74 NGOs are willing to come out in the open.

“Maybe the committee can consider the fact that there are whistleblowers willing to testify on this matter in deciding on what to do next regarding the inquiry on the pork barrel scam,” he said.

But Escudero said he will not insist on the resumption of the proceedings anytime soon as Congress is concentrated right now on the approval of the proposed 2014 budget as well as the supplemental budget for this year.

“As I’ve said, it’s a decision to be made by the committee and the chairman. It is almost Christmas. I would rather not start an argument since there are already too much disputes in the Senate,” he said.

“Cool weather had started but some still wanted to heat things up. It is up to them to decide. On my part, it is enough that cases are being filed but it is also but appropriate to look into the other NGOs which operates the same way (as that of the Napoles syndicate),” he added.

Escudero said the blue ribbon committee, while studying his recommendation, can opt to submit a partial panel report on the issues concerning the alleged Napoles NGOs.

“In the filed resolutions calling for inquiry into the pork barrel scam, most of those filed resolutions are not merely concentrating on the Napoles NGOs but the rest of the 82 NGOs that were mentioned in the CoA report that became the basis in calling for the inquiry,” he said.

“But like I said, I’ll leave it to the decision of Guingona and the committee members. This is merely a suggestion, a recommendation. But I’ll leave it to the hands of the committee whether to consider it or not,” Escudero added.

“It’s possible for the inquiry to continue but not within the year. But it’s still possible. As I’ve said, it’s really TG’s (Guingona’s) decision. But we really don’t have time anymore, I think. Congress is concentrated on the budget and supplemental budget deliberations. So if there may be a continuing proceeding, it’s likely to take place next year already,” he said.

Guingona’s pronouncements were apparently triggered by criticisms hurled at him by Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile at the start of the latter’s privilege speech delivered last Wednesday which chastised the panel chairman, even without mentioning his name, for failing to prevail upon Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago whom he claimed only took the opportunity in appearing before one of the Senate blue ribbon proceedings that was supposed to hear the testimony of Napoles, into a “parody of justice.”

The Napoles appearance had been greatly anticipated by many which Enrile said was also expected mainly to “uncover and bare out the naked truth and nothing but the truth about the alleged PDAF scandal.”

“However, the blue ribbon hearing was turned, surprisingly, into a time and an occasion to attack, malign and assassinate the character of persons, especially me, who had refrained from attending that hearing so that the witnesses and the resource persons would be able to talk freely, without any kind of undue restraint,” Enrile said.

“The hearing was dismally converted into a farcical and unjust hearing, instead of being the sober forum publicized boastfully as the arena to bring out the truth and nothing but the truth,” he added.

The minority leader was referring to the numerous allegations made against him by Santiago while in the course of grilling Napoles, accusing him of among other things, financing with P40 million the Zamboanga siege initiated by supporters of former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari, a murderer and mastermind behind the purported misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Enrile said that while he was advised by well-meaning friends to ignore what they described as abusive words coming from an inane and bitterly hostile mind, he decided to his silence, “lest those who heard the vicious and baseless accusations against me of that vile and malicious mind would believe them to be the truth and nothing but the truth.”

“I am aware that the public has been waiting for me to speak up on this matter, but for now suffice it to say that there will be a time and a more appropriate forum to deal in detail with the alleged PDAF scam, and I will give my fullest cooperation to unearth the truth in that alleged scandal.

“I will soon retire from politics after two and a half more years of public service, and, I owe it to the current generation to answer the barefaced lies said against me and my office, although deep in my heart I believe that history, in a calmer and kinder social climate, will absolve me,” he said.

FROM MANILA BULLETIN

PNoy eyes talks with Biazon  by Madel Sabater - Namit

Coloma Hints Of ‘Changes’ After Customs Chief’s Inclusion In ‘Pork’ Charges


REMEMBERING BONIFACIO – President Benigno S. Aquino III waves to the crowd after leading the flag-raising and wreath-laying rites at the Bonifacio National Monument in Caloocan City yesterday, as the nation commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio(Richard Viñas / Ali Vicoy)

Manila, Philippines – Malacañang yesterday said President Benigno S. Aquino III is planning to talk to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon after he was charged with 33 others in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Biazon, an ally of the President, was charged with malversation for allegedly diverting his pork barrel fund when he was still a congressman representing Muntinlupa City to dubious non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. yesterday said President Aquino is mulling to talk to Biazon after his inclusion in the pork barrel scam.

“Sabi ng ating Pangulo ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon na kakausapin niya si Commissioner Biazon hinggil dito,” Coloma said. (The President said he will talk to Commissioner Biazon about this.)

Coloma, however, said there is no information on rumors that Biazon will be removed from his post, adding that resigning out of delicadeza is “an individual decision.”

He also said that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said that there is “no legal compulsion” for Biazon to go on leave while the charges filed are still being reviewed and evaluated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Secretary De Lima said the complaint has been submitted for review and evaluation by the Ombudsman and while the review and evaluation process is ongoing, there is no legal compulsion for Commissioner Biazon to go on leave,” Coloma said.

‘Changes’ Likely

The Palace official said that while President Aquino had said that he has trust and confidence in Commissioner Biazon even after his State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July, there may be changes following this new development.

It was recalled that in his last SONA, President Aquino named the Bureau of Customs as among the government agencies that were underperforming. Biazon had offered to resign from his post but his resignation was rejected by the President.

“Itong bagong development na ito ay ngayon lang naganap – kumbaga ay maaring nagkaroon ng pagbabago ng konti,” Coloma said. (This new development happened only recently so there might be some changes.)

He also said there will be no special treatment for administration allies who will be proven to be involved in the pork barrel scam.
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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