Opposition reiterates: Why aren’t Aquino allies charged?By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—What about administration legislators?
The political opposition is wondering why the National Bureau of Investigation focused on its members in the filing of plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“If you really want to clean up the government, if you really want to show that there’s no politics involved here, you should make an example of your own allies first,” Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), told the Inquirer on Tuesday.
Tiangco noted that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. were not the only legislators implicated in the alleged scam, based on the special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
He acknowledged that the case against the three senators was based on the testimonies of whistle-blowers, led by Benhur Luy, a former employee of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the PDAF anomaly.
“The problem there is they (administration) have a hold on these whistle-blowers,” he said. “Only they know what these witnesses said. So there’s no transparency.”
Based on the NBI complaint, the trio of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla alone pocketed a combined kickback of around P581 million from fraudulent PDAF transactions.
But the Commission on Audit (COA) report covering 2007 to 2009 also raised questions over the use of PDAF of a number of legislators allied with President Aquino.
Aquino’s close friend, former Cibac Rep. Joel Villanueva, was on the COA list of legislators allegedly involved in questionable deals totaling P541.7 million with nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
Also listed were Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who headed the prosecution in the impeachment case against then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, and Rep. Isidro Ungab, chair of the powerful House committee on appropriations.
Former Sen. Edgardo Angara, whose son Sonny ran and won under the administration’s senatorial ticket in May, allegedly used P81.55 million and P14.4 million of his PDAF in separate foundations where he was involved.
The COA also noted “deficiencies” in “transactions charged against the PDAF” of Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who was also a member of Aquino’s senatorial ticket.
The agency likewise took issue with former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon’s use of P5 million of his PDAF for a fertilizer project when he was still a Muntinlupa representative.
The COA also found that P256.3 million in “soft” projects funded by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales’ PDAF was “not compliant” with the government procurement law.
“To us, everyone, friend or foe, should be charged if he was indeed involved in any anomaly involving PDAF,” Tiangco said. “But the investigation should be fair.”