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Blue Ribbon eyes pork scam probe as House minority pushes own inquiry

Senate blue-ribbon chairman Guingona and vice chairman Serge Osmena are seen in file photo with Sen. Joker Arroyo, whose term ended last June 30. SENATE PRIB FILE PHOTO
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will most likely be assigned the task to investigate some lawmakers implicated in an alleged P10-billion scam using Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel, Senator Teofisto Guingona II said on Monday.

In an interview before Monday's session began, Guingona said that the Blue Ribbon panel has the power to investigate all government officials and employees involved in anomalous transactions since the panel is for accountability of public servants. “Yes (the committee has the power) to investigate lawmakers because this is the committee on accountability,” Guingona said.

Guingona said in a week or two weeks, his committee will be busy crafting its agenda amid exposes on various anomalies in the government, particularly a supposed P10-billion pork scam.

Asked if he will personally file a resolution to probe the pork scam and/or other scandals in the government, Guingona said the Blue Ribbon committee is the only panel in the Legislature that can conduct an investigation without a resolution. “Actually, there is no need to file a resolution to investigate since it is the only committee that can investigate on its own or without a resolution. But it is much better if there is a resolution.” 

Guingona added that as chairman of the committee with Senator Serge Osmena as vice chairman, he will convene the panel first before addressing any inquiries on alleged anomalies in the government.

Earlier, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero filed Senate Resolution No. 40 directing the Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an inquiry into the scam supposedly involving the Janet Lim-Napoles group. Napoles has denied all accusations, and said she was the victim of a demolition job perpetrated by an ex-assistant accused of stealing money, and lamented the use of NBI resources to pursue the case.

The alleged scam showed how the PDAF collectively known as pork barrel was released to dummy nongovernment organizations through forgery, falsification and bribery.

"Accountability and transparency in government dictates that this report must be quizzically looked into, not only for the representatives of the people to clarify their respective positions, if some may be involved, but to show to every Filipino as well that neither sacred cows nor the notion of an “old boys club” exists in a government working for change” Escudero explained in his resolution.

The senator said the scam is damaging to the country as a whole and smears all congressmen and senators in general.“We deserve no less as a people and as a nation, we have to make sure that everyone adheres to the principles of good governance when it comes to public funds. At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity and reputation of the Senate as an institution and as a pillar of our democracy. This should be non-negotiable” he said.

House minority bloc

Over at the House of Representatives, leaders of the chamber on Monday said they will file a resolution to investigate various reports about alleged anomalies on the use of the PDAF.

Delivering the minority's version of the State of the Nation Address or kontra-SONA, Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said, "The minority is filing a resolution to investigate this criminal
plunder. .. Let us get to the bottom of this, even if the Senate says it will not investigate."

Zamora asserted the Senate "is not doing itself any good by avoiding this issue which is the elephant in the room." He said the House of Representatives should not take at face value the denials of those involved in the alleged anomalies, but assess the evidence at hand.

Zamora also proposed ways to make more efficient the use of PDAF and curb corruption. "Let us insert and disclose by way of amendment of the General Appropriations Act our projects to the fullest extent possible. Let the budget be the definitive documents of all projects by all senators and congressmen," he said.

He also proposed to "tighten the menu for all projects. ... let us align those projects to specific directions and programs of government," Zamora added.