Ombudsman forms special team to probe ghost pork projectsBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Office of the Ombudsman has formed a special team of six investigators that would to look deeper into the multibillion-peso ghost projects that were allegedly bankrolled by the pork barrel of five senators and 23 House representatives.
In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Tuesday announced the team would conduct a parallel inquiry with the National Bureau of Investigation on the charges made by six whistle-blowers against their former boss, Janet Lim-Napoles.
Napoles was accused of creating a portfolio of 20 fake nongovernment organizations used as conduits for ghost projects funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
Under Republic Act No. 6770, or the Ombudsman Act of 1989, the Ombudsman has the power to conduct an inquiry on “any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.”
Contrary to Napoles’ claim
Napoles, her main accuser, Benhur Luy, and several officers in the bogus NGOs have pending cases in the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. This is contrary to Napoles’ claim that she and her companies were never involved in this case.
The Ombudsman also revealed that “it has been conducting field investigations involving apparent anomalies and irregularities in the implementation of livelihood programs/projects funded by the PDAF of three senators and one representative.” The lawmakers were not identified.
Senators were divided on how to address the public’s demand for an independent probe of the pork barrel scam.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago suggests that a three-member presidential commission composed of former magistrates should handle the investigation.
Santiago said that the Ombudsman was powerless against the senators who could not be impeached. She said the Department of Justice was also ill-positioned to investigate the scam because its head has not yet been confirmed and Congress controlled its budget.
Sen. Francis Escudero has filed a resolution urging the blue ribbon committee to conduct an inquiry into the grand swindle “to show to every Filipino that neither sacred cows nor the notion of an ‘old boys’ club’ exists in a government working for change.”
Sen. Franklin Drilon suggests that the NBI be allowed to complete its probe of the scam.