MANILA, Philippines—Before passing judgment on the senators implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel funds scam, the public should give them a chance to explain themselves.
Senate President Franklin Drilon made this statement a day after Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan told the Senate blue ribbon committee tasked to look into the scam that certain senators gave instructions to implementing agencies that their pork barrel entitlements should go to specific nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
Tan said a total of P1.093 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Gregorio Honasan went to bogus NGOs belonging to Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind behind the multibillion scam.
“Let us not condemn before they are given an opportunity to explain themselves,” Drilon said.
According to the COA special audit report, among the senators, Revilla poured the most to the Napoles NGOs cited by Tan, with P483.49 million. Enrile came in second, with P332.7 million followed by Estrada, with P262.575 million.
Honasan had the least amount given to the questioned NGOs, with just P14.55 million.
The four senators have inhibited themselves from attending the investigation supposedly to avoid the perception that they are interfering with the flow of the inquiry. They have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the disbursement of their PDAF.
But Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said his colleagues’ presence in the blue ribbon panel hearings “will not be seen as interfering with the investigation.”
“On the contrary, they might be able to help shed light on the case,” Cayetano said in a statement.
He challenged his colleagues to attend the inquiry and submit themselves to questioning.
“We compel witnesses to tell us the truth. Why can we not ask for the truth from our colleagues?” Cayetano said.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, yesterday said majority of senators are for the abolition of the pork barrel system.
“After reading the COA report, 15 out of 24 senators favor the abolition of the pork barrel,” he said on the sidelines of the celebration of the 163rd birth anniversary of propagandist and Bulakan native Marcelo H. del Pilar in Bulakan, Bulacan.
The Senate’s majority stance proves that the investigation of erring members would be fair and transparent, he said. With reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon