MANILA, Philippines—Senators Ralph Recto and Grace Poe on Monday announced plans to file resolutions calling for an inquiry into the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds.
Recto said an inquiry had become imperative after the Commission on Audit (COA) released a special report on Friday that established purported patterns of abuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Poe told reporters she would zero in on the “regulation and use” of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in “questionable government transactions” mentioned in the COA report.
She said she wanted to establish the role of NGOs to put an end to the “squandering” of government funds. “The amounts are no longer just in the millions but in the tens of billions of pesos and has become complex that NGOs and peoples’ organizations are utilized to masquerade illegal activities.”
Earlier, Sen. Francis Escudero filed a resolution calling for an inquiry following reports that the National Bureau of Investigation was piecing together how P10 billion worth of PDAF of five senators and 23 congressmen allegedly ended in the hands of fake NGOs created by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles for the past 10 years.
No ‘old boys’ club’
Escudero said the investigation was necessary to dispel suspicions that Congress operated as an “old boys’ club” that would not discipline its members.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has also joined the group clamoring for the probe, saying “immense public pressure” required the senators to face the issue squarely “if we are to survive as an institution.”
“The Senate cannot look away from this pork barrel scandal anymore,” Trillanes said.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, who allegedly authorized the release of P15 million to Napoles’ network, said calls for a Senate inquiry was “premature” and should await the outcome of investigations being conducted by the NBI, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier urged these agencies to expedite their investigations to allow lawmakers linked to the scam to defend themselves.
Also on Monday, a member of an anticorruption group defended former Sen. Edgardo Angara who the COA said was a stockholder of an NGO that had been a beneficiary of his PDAF.
Demaree Raval, vice president of the Philippine branch of Transparency International based in Berlin, Germany, said in a statement that the COA report that named Angara, who was linked to Kalusugan ng Bata and the Karunungan ng Bayan Foundation, was “still subject to validation.”
“Let’s go slow in making a judgment. Until we get the Ombudsman to lodge indictments against those members of our Congress who actually conspired with fake NGOs, we cannot say for sure that this senator or that congressman is guilty of anything,” he stressed.
“I see malice whenever Senator Angara is mentioned alongside the others mentioned in the COA report. All activities of the NGOs associated with Senator Angara are fully documented; the releases made to them have all been liquidated. They have annual reports which detail the activities, recipients of such activities, and the amounts spent for each activity,” Raval explained.