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Senators fume over COA report on pork


Senators on Monday bristled at the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the alleged diversion of their pork barrel allotments to local government units (LGUs) through implementing agencies controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Sen. Loren Legarda in a text message said that she gave funding to projects in municipalities but that she never dealt “officially or unofficially” with the nongovernment organizations (NGOs). She was in a meeting when the Inquirer called, and did not reply to follow-up questions by text.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, for his part, dismissed what he called a rehash of an old COA story.

“Is there anything new? That’s an old report. The mayor wrote me a letter [explaining the project]. I can prove that to you,” Estrada tersely said by phone, indicating that the project was legitimate. He referred to Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Payumo.

Reacting to a DBM report that he coursed P15 million of his pork barrel for a project in Nueva Ecija through Napoles’ NGOs, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said he could not recall the specific project but said his office was reviewing all projects funded with his pork barrel.

“Out of the hundreds of requests, out of the hundreds of projects given, I could not recall that. The important thing is that our office is waiting for reports from the COA if there are irregularities,” he said by phone.

When told that the findings showed that the funds were disbursed without supporting documents, Sotto said: “That is not my work.”

Sotto appealed to the media to carefully sift through allegations and reports that have yet to be validated by the COA to avoid unduly implicating lawmakers in controversies.

“As far as I know, the COA has never questioned my office about any irregularities. Better check the source, it could be a bum steer (kuryente) or a demolition job,” he later said in a text message.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile declined to be interviewed on the pork barrel scam, while Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s staff said they would reply at the proper time.

Signature forged

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s staff said his PDAF releases to NGOs were being investigated.

Marcos also disowned his purported endorsement of a government corporation as the implementor of livelihood projects using P100 million of his pork barrel in 2012.

The denial came after COA team leader Magno Oasan confirmed the authenticity of Marcos’ signature in his endorsement letter to National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) in March 2012.

In that endorsement letter, Marcos also purportedly designated four NGOs as conduits in the implementation of the projects and designated his chief of staff, Ramon Cardenas, to sign documents.

The NGOs were Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (P5 million); Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (P25 million); Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (P25 million) and Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (P45 million).

In a statement, Marcos said he had written back Oasan to say that his signature was “not mine” and that he “never authorized” Cardenas or any person to deal with the NLDC.

Marcos said his staff, whom he instructed to investigate the matter, found out that his signature in the NLDC endorsement letter was falsified; the endorsement letter did not appear in the “docket system” of the senator’s office; the signatures of Cardenas in the memorandums of agreement with the four NGOs were falsified; and the MOAs were of dubious origin, among others.

The senator said the findings were transmitted to the COA “in the hope that this could aid” in its audit.

“When this scandal broke out, I purposely kept quiet—even when my name was constantly being dragged into this controversy,” he said in the statement.

“Instead, I instructed my office to conduct an investigation because I wanted to be very sure about what I would say since I didn’t want to misinform nor mislead the public,” he added.

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Tags: Commission On Audit , Ferdinand Marcos Jr. , Janet Lim Napoles , Jinggoy Estrada , Juan Ponce Enrile , Loren Legarda , pork barrel scam , Ramon Revilla Jr. , reactions , Senate , Vicente Sotto III

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