Task force vows no sacred cows in pork probe

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‘THE THREE FURIES’ Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales face the media to announce the creation of an interagency body of eight agencies to investigate the pork barrel scam at the Office of the Ombdusman on Tuesday. At left is COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan who is part of the investigating body. The outspoken women are fiercely committed, they say, to a nonpartisan investigation. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

No sacred cows.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales announced Tuesday that the eight-member Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) would look into the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds uncovered in a special audit from 2007 to 2009.

The review conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) and released last week showed that 82 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) received P6.165 billion from allocations of 12 senators and 180 members of the House of Representatives under their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.

“We will go where the evidence leads us,” De Lima said of the inquiry into the alleged diversion of the PDAF funds intended to ease rural poverty to ghost projects and kickbacks.

The investigation will be nonpartisan, meaning it will cover both the opposition and administration allies, De Lima said in the joint news conference a day after tens of thousands joined the Million People March demanding the scrapping of the pork barrel system.

“We don’t have any record of being tools of anybody, to spare this fellow or spare that fellow and make it hard for the other fellow. So we assure you of the credibility of the investigation,” Morales added.

The IAAGCC probe will be separate from the inquiry being conducted by the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation into the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who has disappeared.

De Lima said the NBI was set to file in the Office of the Ombudsman the first batch of cases, including plunder, against Napoles and those involved in her schemes in “one to two weeks.”

The NBI is gathering documentary evidence from the COA and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, she said. The NBI had to move its photocopy machine to the COA because of the “roomful” of evidence there, she said.

The “paper trail” being looked into by the NBI includes letters of endorsements of lawmakers to NGOs and the implementing agencies, special allotment release order, notice of cash allocation and proofs of fund releases from the Department of Budget and Management to implementing agencies and from the NGOs to Napoles and Napoles to certain lawmakers.

Parallel probe

“That is how we are building up the cases. We want to make sure that the cases we will be filing have enough evidence,” De Lima said.

Morales said her office was conducting a parallel investigation into the P10-billion scam involving Napoles “in order to see that in the event we get the NBI report and we find that there are some aspects which have not been covered by them, we will already be ready to conduct a preliminary investigation.”

Originally posted: 2:03 pm | Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

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