MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Senator Ramon “Bong Revilla Jr. on Wednesday said his office, citing initial review and verification of records, has neither endorsed any non-government organization (NGO) nor made any request to transfer his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” to any NGO.
Revilla’s lawyer, Joel Bodegon, said an initial review and verification of the records of documents did not show that the senator has made such an endorsement.
This was the reason why, Bodegon said, they have requested the Commission on Audit to give them a copy of its findings pertaining to the senator’s use of his PDAF.
While the legislators may endorse NGOs to the implementing agencies, the lawyer said it was the responsibility of the implementing agencies to determine the legitimacy of the NGOs.
“Indeed, even if an NGO has an endorsement from a legislator, the implementing agencies may still choose not to release the funds to the NGO, if upon its verification, it finds the NGO illegitimate or incapable of assisting the implementing agency in the project,” Bodegon said in a statement issued by Revilla’s office.
This was confirmed, he said, by the COA itself when it recognized in its report that the responsibility of ensuring that the government funds are utilized in accordance with laws and regulations and safeguarded against loss or wastage lies with the implementing agencies.
“To be fair to our legislators, the COA does not impute liability of culpability to any legislator, including Senator Revilla,” Bodegon said.
Despite this, the lawyer said, the senator was ready to subject himself to an “impartial investigation”, saying it was a good venue “not only to clear his name but also to review and strengthen the system to safeguard it from misuse and abuse.”
“Senator Revilla welcomes an impartial investigation on this matter. At the same time, the Office of Senator Revilla is currently doing in-depth study and serious review of the process and evaluating options to strengthen the safeguards or security measures to ensure that his PDAF allocation is not used without his office’s consent or knowledge,” Bodegon said.
He said the senator was not taking the matter lightly that he had immediately directed his staff to verify the information against his records.
In fact, he said, the senator had even hired a hand writing expert to verify his signatures in the light of the admission of the whistle blowers, led by Benhur Luy, that they themselves falsified documents covering the availments of the legislators’ pork barrel.
It was possible that the confirmation of the signatures by Revilla’s office was “improvidently made,” said Bodegon.
“A full and complete examination by handwriting experts should resolve the question of authenticity of the signatures,” he added.
Revilla’s laywer also called for a thorough examination of the records of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), following its own admission that the P3 billion pork barrel allocation for Compostela Valley Representative Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora was only a clerical error.