MANILA, Philippines—Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Saturday denied he released P325 million of his pork barrel funds to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) as reported by the Commission on Audit (COA).
“I was not aware that we have to use NGOs. My understanding is that my duty as a legislator is to request for funding for those who request me to grant them this part of the program of the government,” Enrile said in a press forum.
“I never dealt directly with any contractor or any supplier all my career as a politician,” he said.
The audit commission said about P6.2 billion from some lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was released to 82 questionable NGOs from 2007 to 2009.
One of the allegedly involved officials was Enrile, who in turn denied getting requests from or dealing with the NGOs which reportedly got P325 million from his PDAF as indicated in the COA special audit report.
“I do not know those NGOs. I do not know that they existed,” he said.
Enrile insisted that it was the politicians, particularly the members of the powerful Commission on Appointments, who requested for financial assistance and not the NGOs.
He said he could not discount the possibility that lawmakers unknowingly released their pork funds to non-existing NGOs.
“As a politician, I got all kind of requests for assistance – for roads, farm-to-market roads, roads in my province of Cagayan, and in other places,” he said.
“I do not know how they implement these things. They have DBM or a Commission on Audit procedure for the uses of these funds. And all I did was ask for the SARO [Special Allotment Release Order]. And I have written a letter to that effect–including to the beneficiary LGUs,” added the octogenarian lawmaker.
On Friday, he criticized COA’s special audit report, dismissing it as “distorted and misleading.”
Enrile said that the P325 million attributed to him actually came from several senators who only asked for his endorsement during his term as Senate President.
The Senate minority leader admitted that he himself was perplexed how the questionable NGOs continued to exist without legislators knowing about it.
But Enrile said that he was ready to “face the music.”
“If I was foolish to commit a crime then I should answer for it,” he said. “I was jailed for a number of times. I was charged before with non-bailable offenses. I am used to those kind of accusations.”
Originally posted at 4:35 p.m.