MANILA, Philippines—Two witnesses have come forward to testify on the alleged questionable disbursement of P428.5 million in pork barrel to Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC), whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada said on Monday.
Lozada, who joined the antipork barrel rally, dubbed Million People March, in Manila, said he himself had accompanied the two whistle-blowers to the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011.
“In fact, the Ombudsman took a video of the (interview) with the whistle-blowers. They already have a copy of that video,” Lozada, a whistle-blower in the scuttled national broadband network project, told the Inquirer.
He said the testimonies of the two female witnesses involved the same funds which were mentioned in the documents obtained by the Inquirer.
The documents covered the disbursement of the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as pork barrel, between 2010 and 2012.
“But I’m not sure about the extent of their deposition,” Lozada said.
The Inquirer reported on Monday that PFC received P428.5 million in the PDAF of 26 lawmakers—two senators and 24 members of the House of Representatives—for the production of jatropha as biodiesel feedstock. The funds were coursed through fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
Sen. Gregorio Honasan II accounted for P195 million of the pork that the PFC coursed through nine NGOs.
Asked if the supposed misuse of the PDAF continued during the Aquino administration, Lozada said: “Of course.”
Lozada said one of the witnesses was a former finance officer of PFC while the other was previously connected with an NGO.
He said the pair lost interest in disclosing the purported irregularities in the PFC after Lozada and his brother were charged in March in the Sandiganbayan in connection with the supposed illegal lease of government land to his brother when Lozada was still president of PFC in 2009.
“When they saw that the government was pursuing charges against me, they just lost confidence. They thought they would not get any support from this government,” he lamented.
“They just went back to the woodwork. I don’t know if the AMRSP sisters can still find them. But it’s better to look for them now.”
FOI, whistle-blowers bill
The recent media exposés on the pork barrel scam should prompt the Aquino administration to immediately pass two bills that seek to promote transparency in government, a group of whistle-blowers said on Monday.
Sandra Cam, president of the Whistleblowers’ Association, challenged President Aquino to show his sincerity in curbing corruption by endorsing the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the proposed Whistleblowers Act to Congress as priority measures.
“The Whistleblowers’ Act should be passed to give us teeth and to encourage individuals to blow the whistle against corrupt public officials,” Cam told the Inquirer at the Million People March in Manila’s Luneta Park.
“This gathering delivered a strong message to Malacañang that the people are already fed up with the widespread irregularities in the government,” she said.
Concern for Benhur Luy
Cam, who testified against the “jueteng” payola during the Arroyo administration, expressed concern for Benhur Luy, the principal witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles, and other whistle-blowers.
“Do you think Luy is in a good state right now? The people may be clapping for him now. We too experienced that. But that will only last for several months. After that, he might find himself crying alone,” she said.
Former military comptroller George Rabusa lamented that instead of getting protection from the government, criminal charges were brought against whistle-blowers like him.
“We have supported the President. But it seems nothing really happened with what we disclosed then. The case against those involved in my revelations is not moving,” he said.
Rabusa, who exposed the pasalubong and pabaon system for incoming and outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, said the government should find closure to previous allegations of corruption.