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Besides Enrile, Honasan and Revilla, 2 more senators linked to tainted PDAF use - COA chief

(Joseph Vidal/PRIB)
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – Aside from three senators whose names cropped up in the P10-billion pork scam, two more lawmakers were added to the list of those who spent their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) on projects by bogus non-government organizations, the chief state auditor said Thursday.

In her initial testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee looking into the pork barrel mess, Commission on Audit Chairman Ma. Grace Pulido-Tan said the audit report on pork releases to Philippine Forest Corporation and National Agribusiness Corporation showed up the names of two more senators who assigned part of their funds to questioned transactions.

“Some members are in this report, two additional,” Tan told Senator Francis Escudero, who earlier asked the audit chief to name other legislators and government agencies involved in the pork anomalies.

Earlier, the names of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan and Ramon Revilla Jr., cropped up in batch of allocations totalling P145 million for anomalous PDAF projects from 2007 to 2009.

However, Tan refused to name the two legislators until the audit report for 2011 and 2012 is released to the public. The audit conducted on the two government agencies for 2011 and 2012 was a performance audit report regarding the utilization of PDAF--separate from the coverage of the special audit for years 2007, 2008 and 2009, a report on which Pulido-Tan released last Aug. 16.

Not in the hall

At this juncture, Senate President Franklin Drilon asked Tan to categorically name the two other legislators who also released PDAF funds for questionaed transactions for 2011 and 2012 audit report, “in fairness to everybody.”

“In fairness to others, it is difficult to you, puwede bang sabihin mo kung sino ang dalawa o isa pa. Baka ang sinasabi mong isa o dalawa ay nakaupo dito, pakisabi naman in fairness,” Drilon said.

Tan replied that their policy however stays: “we don’t divulge [information] until the report is releases."

But Drilon and Escudero insisted that the “two legislators” must be named at once. Tan did the next best thing: a process of elimination. “But, if it is sufficient [to state] that the two are not      in the hall right now,” Tan said, drawing laughter from the senators in attendance and from the gallery

“Puwede na 'yan [That will do], “ Drilon said.

Besides Drilon and Escudero, present during the proceedings at that time were Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Juan Edgardo Angara, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, Ralph Recto, Pia Cayetano, JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV and Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada earlier went out of the session hall after delivering his speech.

Pulido-Tan praised

Meanwhile, Escudero thanked Tan for her courage to divulge names of legislators linked to the scam at a time when Congress is deliberating on the national expenditure program, including that of COA.

“I would to congratulate you Chairman Tan, because in my 25 years in public service as legislator, it's only now that I've seen a COA chairman releasing a report such as this, where lawmakers are tagged, at a time of budget deliberations," Escudero said.

“Don't heed the calls of those calling on you to resign,” he added, referring to calls from some sectors calling for her resignation for certain big blunders in attributing pork releases to innocent legislators. Singled out is the COA's claim that ex-Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel "Way Kurat: Zamora had drawn P3 billion in PDAF during the years covered by the special audit---a matter later found to have been a clerical error by the Department of Budget and Management. COA also said a non-congressman, "Luis Abalos," drew PDAF but this turned out to be ex-Mandaluyong Rep., now mayor, Benhur Abalos.