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Senate to resume probe of pork barrel scandal

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 07:38 AM January 25, 2014

Janet Lim-Napoles. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate blue ribbon committee is resuming its inquiry on the pork barrel scandal on Thursday next week, focusing on the crafting of policy to cure flaws in the system.

After last year’s testimonies of whistle-blowers, the committee has invited heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commission on Audit (COA) and Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG), among other government agencies, to talk on measures of regulating nongovernment organizations (NGOs) dealing with the government.

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The hearing “will focus on policy issues such as the registration, accreditation and monitoring of NGOs that deal with government contracts,” committee chair Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said in a statement.

Invited to the hearing are SEC chair Teresita Herbosa, COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan and GCG chair Cesar Villanueva.

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Other invited resource persons are: Emmanuel Santiaguel, chair of the Cooperative Development Authority; Dennis Santiago, executive director of the Government Procurement and Policy Board; and Augusto Carpio, chair of the Philippine Council for NGO Accreditation.

Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said it is Guingona’s privilege to focus on policy issues and wrap up the hearing, “but that doesn’t stop any member from bringing up any new matter or for moving for more witnesses.”

Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly ran her racket of converting P10 billion in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel into kickbacks through several foundations and NGOs.

The NGOs or foundations were created, registered with the SEC and headed by her own employees to serve as dummy recipients of pork barrel funds.

In a special audit last year, the COA reported that P6.2 billion in pork was transferred to 82 NGOs from 2007 to 2009, including at least eight that had links to Napoles.

The funds were sourced from Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (P413.29 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P332.7 million), Jinggoy Estrada (P191.58 million) and Gregorio Honasan (P14.55 million).

Revilla, Enrile and Estrada, together with Napoles and 34 others, are facing a plunder complaint over the scam before the Ombudsman.

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In the committee’s last hearing on Nov. 7 last year, Napoles was peppered with questions about her key role in the scam and her ties with lawmakers, but dodged them by invoking her right against self-incrimination and claiming she had no knowledge, or no recollection, of these.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago even coaxed her into telling the truth before she gets assassinated, but she did not waver.

It was Benhur Luy and her former employees-turned-whistle-blowers who gave damning testimonies on the percentage of kickbacks pocketed by three senators and lawmakers out of their PDAF allocations, which were personally picked up by their staff.

For her own security, Napoles has been detained in a bungalow inside a police training camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, under heavy guard by policemen since her surrender in late August.

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TAGS: Cesar Villanueva, Commission On Audit, Governance Commission for GOCCs, Grace Pulido-Tan, pork barrel scam, Pork barrel scandal, pork scam, Securities and Exchange Commission, Teofisto Guingona III, Teresita Herbosa
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