Estrada to COA chief: Why us? Why not blame the implementing agencies?
MANILA,, Philippines— Commission on Audit chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan came prepared on Wednesday when Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada confronted her over the “pork barrel” mess involving him.
At the start of the budget hearing of the Senate committee on finance, Estrada peppered Tan with questions regarding her previous statement that the senator would be the first to get a notice of disallowance in connection with the use of his “pork barrel” funds.
“Bakit ako ang una mong papadalhan ng notice of disallowances?” Estrada asked.
Tan said she was just answering to the questions of the media when she was asked to react to the senator’s privilege speech last September 25 where he attacked the COA for allegedly singling out members of the opposition in its special audit conducted from 2007 to 2009.
She said the COA only issued the notice of disallowance to persons involved in irregular transactions.
And when Estrada asked why would a legislator would get such notice, Tan said: “Sir, is it OK if I speak about your particular case?”
“As I said lahat po ng involved sa pagdi-disburse ng pera ay mabibigyan po ng disallowance and I understand that there are documents in which we found your signature and that’s the basis for our taking into account your participation.”
But she refused to give the details of Estrada’s sanction, saying the matter is now with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The senator was among those charged with plunder for allegedly funnelling millions of funds to fake non-government organizations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles.
And when Estrada insisted that the implementing agencies (IAs), and not the legislators, are in-charge of the implementation of the projects, the COA contradicted and pointed to the statements made by the heads of the agencies.
Tan specifically cited the claim of the head of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) that the projects were allegedly endorsed by the sponsoring legislators “and in almost all cases, the center did not have a hand in selecting a non-government organization (NGO) partner.”
Estrada apparently misheard Tan’s statements when he repeated it: “The senators did not have any hand..?”
“The center, meaning the TRC did not have a hand in selecting NGO partners…The NGOs were selected by the sponsoring legislators…” the COA chief clarified.
In their special audit, Tan said they also found out many documents where a “proponent legislator” was a “party” in the fund transfers to fake NGOs.
Estrada also confronted Tan over her public pronouncements that the legislators as well as the implementing agencies involved in the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam should return the money.
“Ipapasoli sa amin… How sure are you na tumanggap kami ng pera?” asked the senator.
Tan said: “[That’s a] consequence of notice of disallowance. The people who will be given the notice of disallowance become jointly and solitarily liable for the return of the money and that’s a matter of law.”
“The consequence of the notice of disallowance is provided for by law,” she added.
But Estrada insisted that the legislators were not in control of the funds and therefore they should not be held liable for any of its alleged misuse.
“Dapat ang sisishin n’yo yung implementing agencies or the heads of the implementing agencies. Why gang up on the legislators who do not have any control of these funds?” he said.
Tan refused to answer the questions but said the senator has the right to appeal when he gets the notice of disallowance.
“That is a proper matter for appeal, sir, so I will not answer but I will tell you that the notice of disallowance has that effect…yun pong demand to return the money,” she said.
Estrada ended the exchange with an appeal to the COA chief to refrain from issuing statements in the media that they should refund the money since he said the legislators are not the custodial of the funds
“Noted…,” Tan answered.
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