MANILA, Philippines –Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile has called on the Commission on Audit not to allow itself to be used by anybody for “political or partisan ends.”
The call came just a day after the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported a COA finding that Enrile’s PDAF or priority development assistance funds was among the sources of millions of pesos that allegedly went to a questionable non-government organization.
“In the interest of fairness, transparency and justice, and to penalize those parties who may have financially benefited from the PDAF funds which are meant to help our constituents, I urge the Commission on Audit to officially release in full its findings and observations borne out by its special audit,” he said in a statement.
“The COA which is a constitutional body must not allow itself to be used by anybody to achieve political or partisan ends by allowing a piece-meal or selective disclosure of parts of its report,” he added.
“If indeed it has completed its special audit, it must explain the parameters and the scope of its audit and, in all fairness, point out the parties responsible for any shenanigans in the use of public funds without fear or favour,” Enrile said.
Enrile said COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte had informed him that the agency was conducting a “special audit” of the PDAF of all senators and congressmen and she was aware that some lawmakers were concerned that they were being singled out or targeted.
“But she clarified that the special audit was not directed at the lawmakers but at the implementing agencies,” Enrile said.
“I said that I understood her point, it was a job she must do and I personally had no worries or qualms about the utilization of my own PDAF being scrutinized by the COA,” he said.
After all, Enrile said, he uses his PDAF “with utmost adherence to transparency and accountability.”
The COA report, however, showed that his PDAF also known as “pork barrel” was among the sources of some P195 million that went to a questionable non-government organization, Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (PFI).
The other sources were the PDAF of Enrile, Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. and former Buhay Representative Rene Velarde.
Enrile confirmed that he allocated a total amount of P74.69 million for agricultural and livelihood projects from his PDAF in 2008 and 2009.
The funds, he said, were released to the Department of Agriculture, which turned over the money to a GOCC called Zynac Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC). It was the ZREC that released the funds to the PFI.
But Enrile immediately denied any knowledge of or any link to PFI or its alleged president, Petronila Balmaceda.
In fact, he said, the signatures of his staff in the liquidation documents sent to his office by COA had been allegedly forged.
“When I checked with my office, the documents much earlier sent by COA supposedly for verification purposes contained “liquidation” reports and documents signed by a certain Petronila A. Balmaceda as president of PFI and at the bottom, the supposed signatures of my staff members were obviously either forged or super-imposed to indicate my conformé,” he said.
“Above the signatures of my staff members, the papers said: ‘By authority of the Senate President.’”
“For the record, none of my staff members have ever signed any so-called liquidation documents relating to the implementation of projects that I have identified as beneficiaries of my PDAF. It is not our role to liquidate these funds,” Enrile said.
He said his office had not also been notified by the COA or the ZREC that the PFI was already blacklisted and should no longer be granted any fund assistance.
“We have never been warned nor have we ever received any such notification from ZREC nor the Department of Agriculture. I have no knowledge of nor any link to PFI, or the one identified as its President, Petronila Balmaceda,” Enrile said.