COA: No direct evidence linking Estrada to scam
MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Audit (COA) did not find any direct evidence proving that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada benefited from the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
This was admitted on Monday by COA Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia in her testimony during the continuation of Estrada’s bail hearing at the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.
Garcia said the notices of disallowance which COA issued in 2012 were addressed to pork scam principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy and fellow witness Merlina Suñas as presidents of the two alleged fake foundations which received millions of pesos from Estrada’s pork barrel allotments.
She said the COA also sent a similar order to the National Agribusiness Corp., one of the state agencies used as conduits in implementing projects funded by Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.
A notice of disallowance is a document ordering the accountable public officer or government agency to return the public funds used to finance anomalous state-funded projects.
In the case of Estrada, Garcia said the special audit covering the senator’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009 did not reveal any document to prove that he had received over P183 million in kickbacks from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Nominated Napoles NGOs
Grilled during cross-examination by Lani David, one of Napoles’ lawyers, Garcia also admitted that there was no proof showing Napoles had offered Estrada a portion of his PDAF from the projects channeled to the nongovernment organizations she allegedly created.
But Director Joefferson Toribio, head of the prosecution panel, explained that Garcia’s testimony was not intended to support the allegations that Estrada pocketed millions of pesos from his pork barrel.
Instead, Toribio said, Garcia was presented as a prosecution witness to prove that Estrada had nominated Napoles-linked foundations as recipients of his PDAF and that the projects funded by his pork barrel were replete with irregularities.
“The whistle-blowers had testified that they had personal knowledge on how Estrada benefited from the scam. You do not make conclusions from the testimony of a single witness alone,” Toribio told the Inquirer.
In his testimony, Luy claimed personally seeing Estrada on two occasions signing documents endorsing Napoles’ foundations as project implementors of his PDAF.
Luy said Estrada’s kickbacks were regularly received by his former deputy chief of staff, Pauline Labayen, who had gone into hiding since the antigraft court ordered her arrest in June.–Marlon Ramos
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