Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Monday accused Malacañang of linking him to the alleged irregular use of more than P1 billion of his pork barrel over the past 10 years, saying it was part of efforts to discredit “nonallied” potential candidates for President in 2016.
“They are trying to destroy my name just because there are people who are asking me to run [for President] in 2016,” Revilla said in Filipino in an
Revilla did not mince words when he blamed Malacañang for the Inquirer report identifying him, four other senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives as those who supposedly allowed bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to use their pork barrel for nonexistent projects.
“Why are they trying to demolish us in this trial by publicity? Suspiciously, only nonallies of the administration are being dragged into this controversy,” said the senator who headed the once-powerful Lakas-CMD.
Revilla challenged probers to investigate how all senators, including allies of President Aquino, used their priority development assistance fund (PDAF), a pork barrel for members of Congress.
Each senator is allotted P200 million in PDAF yearly and each House member, P70 million for their pet projects.
An Inquirer report said Revilla had authorized a web of NGOs referred to as JLN Corp., allegedly led by Janet Lim-Napoles, to gain access to his pork barrel in 22 instances.
Apart from Revilla, other senators named in an ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation were Juan Ponce Enrile (21 instances of PDAF access), Jinggoy Estrada (18), Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (4) and Gregorio Honasan (once).
Object of witch-hunt
Revilla said he had received information that he would be the object of a witch-hunt by the administration.
“I have already been warned by someone in Malacañang that I could be a target. This is it. This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose—to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people,” he said.
Revilla, whose second term in the Senate ends in 2016, has long been rumored to be considering a run for the presidency. The Constitution bars senators from seeking a third term.
In fact, there is talk in the Senate that he and Marcos would team up in 2016 when Marcos’ first six-year term ends.
Both senators have denied the rumors although Marcos once hinted at plans to seek a higher post in a recent news conference.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said allegations against him and four other senators were politically motivated.
“Any allegations [or] insinuations of irregularity must be backed up by evidence in the proper courts of law subject to due process and not politically motivated, suspicious or malicious trial by publicity,” he said in a text message.
In separate statements, Revilla, Honasan and Marcos all said they were willing to cooperate with investigators as they had nothing to hide.
Honasan insisted that all records regarding the use of his PDAF “are subject to accounting and auditing procedures according to law … The records of my office are transparent and open for public scrutiny.”
Honasan also said the issue underscored the need for a freedom of information bill and reminded Malacañang that he was the one who sponsored the version passed on third and final reading in the 15th Congress.
Revilla said he welcomed an investigation but it must be “fair and objective.”
“I have always been transparent and accountable … I have a clear conscience and I am saddened because politics is destroying the name that I have long protected,” Revilla said.
Marcos said he was “more than eager to cooperate” with investigators and added that he had never been acquainted with Napoles.
Revilla noted that all those named in the NBI investigation were neither members of the administration’s Liberal Party (LP) nor of other political groups allied with it.
Revilla added that the police officers who surrounded his Cavite home while he was being guarded by NBI confidential agents a few months ago bolstered his charges against Malacañang.
“In the last elections, more than 120 armed men of my political opponents in Cavite who are administration allies surrounded our house and put me and my family in danger,” he said, obviously referring to erstwhile Cavite Gov. Ayong Maliksi, an LP member.
At that time, Revilla’s son Jolo was running for vice governor.
“By means of intimidation, they tried to forcibly enter my house even without a warrant,” the senator said, referring to members of the Philippine National Police.
“And because they failed in Cavite, they found another way to pressure me,” Revilla said.
Revilla also complained about how “mere allegations” aired by Napoles’ estranged colleagues “have been treated as fact in the public eye, especially since the so-called whistle-blowers have openly admitted that it was they who forged and falsified documents to carry out their scheme.”
Earlier reports said Benhur Luy, Napoles’ former employee, admitted helping her in carrying out her scheme by opening bank accounts from which pork barrel funds given by legislators were withdrawn.
Affidavits submitted by Luy and other potential witnesses were used to build the case against Napoles.
“If what the affidavits say is true, we too are victims of this anomaly. The executive branch has the responsibility to ensure that public funds were properly spent,” Revilla said.
The senator said he wanted the NBI to release the affidavits on which the Inquirer reports were based.
“The allocation of our [PDAF is] subject to existing government rules and regulations. The release of funds [is] solely handled by the implementing agencies and the executive branch,” he said.
“This demolition job is a sad commentary on the state of Philippine politics … If it is true that this has been going on for
10 years, why expose it now and in a newspaper?” he added.
Late afternoon on Monday, Marcos sent an e-mailed statement broaching the possibility of a “political angle” in the effort to link him to the PDAF scam.
“I am eager to participate in any investigation, which will reveal the truth of this matter. I am also exploring the possibility that there may be a political angle to all this in the light of the upcoming presidential election in 2016,” he added.
Marcos said that after the PDAF report came out, he and his staff had reviewed the procedures his office was following in its release.
“My office receives an average of 300 requests a month to fund various projects from local government units (LGUs). From these requests I choose which project to fund generally based on my legislative agenda,” he noted.
Marcos said the amounts of PDAF given to all projects were compiled in a list and given to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “for review and endorsement to the relevant government agencies for implementation.”
He said that in the last three years, projects using his PDAF were implemented by various departments, LGUs and state colleges and universities.
Marcos argued that the disbursement and implementation of the PDAF “is a function and responsibility of the DBM and the implementing government agencies.”
“A senator’s role in this process is merely to identify the projects to be funded, the amount allocated to these projects as well as the beneficiary LGUs,” he said.
Enrile, meanwhile, urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to release in full the special audit of all senators’ PDAF to aid the NBI and the Department of Justice in their investigation.
Enrile maintained that his office “consistently abides by all the issuances and guidelines” of the DBM in connection with the use of PDAF and that all releases of his PDAF “are part of public record.”
The senator complained he and the four others had been “accused, tried and judged in the media and before the public of having pocketed public funds … but not given the opportunity at all by any official agency to defend ourselves … in any manner consistent with justice and due process.”
Enrile said he did not know Napoles and that he did not receive “any bribe or financial benefit” from any of the NGOs linked to her.
Enrile also noted that the NBI effort on Napoles was not the first time that he, Revilla and Estrada were linked to a reported scam in connection with the PDAF.
A few months back, a COA report implicated the three senators in another scam in which a total of P195 million of their pork was allegedly released to an NGO and used for ghost projects.