‘Some solons hiding SALNs’; ‘Senate lacks interest in pork scandal probe’ | Inquirer News

‘Some solons hiding SALNs’; ‘Senate lacks interest in pork scandal probe’

/ 03:37 AM August 02, 2013

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Amid the scandal set off by the investigation of the pork barrel scam, some senators and congressmen appear to be hiding their financial statements, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares said on Thursday.

“We have made several requests, but up to now they have not released [their SALNs],” Henares said in an interview on Radyo Inquirer 990AM.


Sen. Francis Escudero is trying to get the Senate to investigate the pork scam, but a seeming lack of interest among his colleagues is slowing down action on the resolution he has filed for the probe.


The Senate is controlled by President Aquino’s allies, one of whom is Escudero himself.

On Thursday, Escudero said the perpetrators of the pork barrel scam might go unpunished if the scandal died down without an investigation.

Escudero said the Senate should investigate despite the alleged involvement of some of its members.

“The problem [in] investigating people in [the House] and in the Senate [is] the SALN. [In the House] we have been asking for the SALN of some of the congressmen for months [and] years [and] some of the congressmen, up to now, [have not released the documents],” Henares said.

SALN is the financial disclosure known in the government as statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Five senators and 23 congressmen have been linked to the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles, president and CEO of trading company JLN Corp.


Using dummy NGOs, Napoles allegedly siphoned off P10 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of the lawmakers into her bank accounts over the last 10 years.

The National Bureau of Investigation is investigating the scam.

Napoles has denied any wrongdoing.

The senators who have reportedly funded phantom projects allegedly orchestrated by Napoles from their pork allocations are Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate’s third district gave funds 13 times to bogus NGOs allegedly set up by Napoles.

Rep. Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan’s sixth district and Rep. Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur each gave funds to the bogus NGOS nine times.

Rep. Samuel Dangwa of Benguet funded eight fictitious projects through Napoles’ alleged fake NGOs.

The latest to be implicated in the scam is Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who two years ago allegedly approved the use of P89.2 million from the pork shares of eight legislators to fund projects proposed by a bogus NGO allegedly set up by Napoles.

“When we are investigating, normally we want to get as many of their SALNs as possible,” Henares said.

But getting the lawmakers’ financial disclosures is proving to be a tough job, unlike getting the financial statements of officials of other government agencies, which Henares described as “easy.”

Spare the institution

Escudero also proposed a vote so that the individual senators’ position on such an investigation may become known, as the Senate leaders had shown little interest in a probe because it would mean senators investigating one another.

“It is not our objective to investigate each other.  That’s not the theme of the resolution that I filed,” Escudero said at the weekly news forum in the Senate.

“My objective is to clean the institution, to show that we’re not an [old-boy network], that we’re not silent when it comes to issues like these… that confront any of our colleagues,” Escudero said.

“This is also an opportunity for any witness to identify who are involved so that not all would be implicated, so that the institution will be spared and so it will not seem that we’re all scared to open this [investigation] because it seems all of us are involved here,” he said.

Senators, including Senate President Franklin Drilon and Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, have expressed their inclination to leave the investigation to the NBI.

“We have yet to hold a caucus regarding the matter but the Senate is a collegial body and [if it decides against conducting an investigation into the pork scam], those with less votes can’t do anything,” Escudero said.

“But if that will happen, it should be voted upon so that the view of each one will be seen and known,” he added.

Escudero said it would be a lost opportunity for the Senate if it voted against an investigation of the pork scam.

“It has not been my style to throw a tantrum, but I will be greatly disappointed at the lost chance for each member to explain and to be given explanation on this issue,” Escudero said.

Escudero’s Senate Resolution No. 40 calling for an investigation of the scandal has yet to be referred by the plenary to any committee.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee that looks into allegations of misdeeds against government officials, indicated yesterday that the panel would start looking into the allegations of sexual depredation against officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment in the Middle East.

“I don’t want to preempt chairman TG Guingona in scheduling and how he manages his committee, but I expect and hope that this will be heard,” Escudero said.

He said the pork scandal may also be taken up with the heads of agencies that allegedly became conduits for the release of funds.

“That’s the question in the minds of many of our countrymen.  Again, it would appear that we’re hiding or protecting each other or conspiring with each other if we don’t ask those questions,” Escudero said.

Escudero was reacting to the report that the agriculture department’s Alcala authorized the release of nearly P90 million in pork to phantom projects proposed by Napoles’ bogus NGO.

Asked if an investigation would not delay Senate action on next year’s national budget, Escudero said, “It just means we have to put in longer hours and we’re ready to do that.”

How to spend pork

In the budget deliberation, Escudero said he would move for the inclusion of a line item list of where the lawmakers intend to use their allocations from the PDAF.

Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on finance that goes through the national expenditure program, said 80 percent of the proposed P2.26-trillion national budget is made of line items instead of lump-sum allocations.

“On my part, I will personally try to convince my colleagues and push for detailed pork barrel allocations for each member of the Senate or of the House,” Escudero said.

He said he would move for the inclusion of a provision for realignments in case adjustments would be needed over the course of the fiscal year.

But the provision will be subject to posting and notice requirements for monitoring, he said.

“If the departments can put in detail how they intend to spend billions, I suppose it would be easier for lawmakers to specify how they intend to spend their P70 billion and P200 billion,” Escudero said.

The PDAF allocates P200 million a year for each senator and  P70 million for each member of the House to finance projects for their constituents.

Escudero said restrictions were proposed in the national budget on the lawmakers’ use of their shares of the pork.

“But personally… they are still quite easy and we plan to make them stricter,” Escudero said.

Opposition Sen. JV Ejercito on Thursday said the Aquino administration should press its campaign against erring officials even after the involvement of a member of the ruling Liberal Party in the pork scam.

But a member of the administration coalition, Sen. Cynthia Villar, gave Alcala the benefit of the doubt in his alleged involvement in the scandal.

“Now that a questionable transaction involves President Aquino’s partymates and close friends in the government, I hope that those in power will remain steadfast in their quest to prosecute erring officials not only in the opposition but also their allies,” Ejercito told the Inquirer.

Ejercito, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance and the chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, raised the need for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Bill.

“In the case of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the people have the right to know what really transpired in the fund disbursements,” Ejericto said in a text message.

“I think it is high time that all national government agencies, especially those involved in major government funding supposedly intended for the benefits of the people such as the DA, DPWH, DOTC… DSWD, among others, to submit their disbursement reports regularly for public knowledge,” he added.

Ejercito said officials involved in the scam should be exposed as well.

“Also I hope officials connected with the administration involved in this scam should be exposed, it’s always the opposition, who is being subjected to a demolition job,” Ejercito said.

Probe scam in DA

Villar, a member of Nacionalista Party and chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, called for an investigation of the pork scam in Alcala’s department.

“The DA is a very big department.  We should find out [who really caused the release of those funds],” Villar said.

“There should be an investigation and there should be prosecution,” she added. Reports from Norman Bordadora and Inquirer.net


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Aquino orders full, fair probe of pork scam

TAGS: Francis Escudero, JLN Corp., kim henares, SALN

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