Cunanan opens bank accounts to probers | Inquirer News

Cunanan opens bank accounts to probers

Witness to prove he got no pork kickbacks

Dennis Cunanan

MANILA, Philippines—Dennis Cunanan, the director general of the state-owned Technology Resource Center (TRC), said Wednesday he was prepared to undergo a lifestyle check by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prove that he did not benefit from the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles.

“In fact, to show that I have nothing to hide, I am willing to go further and I hereby state my willingness to sign a waiver of the Bank Secrecy Law to allow the DOJ to go through all of my bank accounts should it find the same necessary in the course of their lifestyle check on my person,” Cunanan said in a statement.

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Cunanan, 42, who is on leave, is the latest provisional state witness in the pork barrel scam, telling investigators that Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. had called him to endorse nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles as recipients of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The TRC, as the chosen implementing agency of the senators, had received the PDAF allocations from the Department of Budget and Management. The microfinance agency then released the funds to the NGOs designated by the lawmakers to carry out their pet projects.

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Estrada and Revilla have denied wrongdoing. The two, along with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Napoles, are under investigation for plunder in connection with the scam.

Estrada said he planned to question Cunanan when he appears before the Senate blue ribbon committee looking into the racket that allegedly channeled funds intended to ease poverty into ghost projects and kickbacks.

‘Good gesture’

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima welcomed the “good gesture” of Cunanan, the first government official to become a state witness in the plunder case under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“I think Dennis Cunanan is bracing himself psychologically for what seems to be a looming black operations/propaganda aimed at undermining his credibility as a state witness,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.

She said that any or all of three agencies—the DOJ, the Office of the Ombudsman or the Bureau of Internal Revenue—could do the lifestyle check.

In his statement, Cunanan said he did his best when he was deputy director of the TRC from 2006 to 2009 to “protect and safeguard the interest of the public by conscientiously reviewing and scrutinizing” the PDAF documents presented to his office.

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At the time, Cunanan said Antonio Ortiz was the TRC chief. He said he was then in no position to approve PDAF projects. Cunanan said his job was “administrative and ministerial” as a cosignatory to the TRC’s checks and vouchers.

Still, Cunanan said his office made sure to “carefully and painstakingly” scrutinize all PDAF documents, calling the offices of the concerned lawmakers to verify the authority of those who signed the papers.

“I would like to think that it was our actions that compelled the legislators concerned to issue the letters of authorization that they subsequently issued, which now form part of the evidence against them,” Cunanan said.

Roxas not involved

Cunanan said that when he assumed the top TRC post in 2010, he started instituting policy reforms, including Commission on Audit recommendations, to streamline the processing of PDAF projects and ensure that public funds were protected.

He said he blacklisted and banned 47 NGOs and local governments that failed to liquidate their accountabilities or settle their deficiencies. He said these included all the NGOs identified with Napoles.

“I believe that this action of the TRC management under my leadership, more than anything else, is enough to dispel any claims, suggestions or suspicion that I directly or indirectly benefited from the PDAF scam,” Cunanan said.

“I believe it also shows that the management of the TRC on my watch tried its best to protect the interest of the public, even at the expense of incurring the ire of some of the most powerful people in the country, at a time when the PDAF scam has not been exposed yet, at great peril to our careers and personal safety,” he said.

Cunanan, speaking through his lawyer Odessa Bernardo, denied a claim by Revilla that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas had coaxed him to testify against the senator.

“Secretary Roxas did not ask me to become a state witness. The last time I saw him was a chance meeting in 2010,” Cunanan said.

In an earlier interview with the Inquirer, Cunanan denied Malacañang had a hand in his decision, saying he thought it was the right thing to do given his knowledge of the transactions.

In a 32-page affidavit accompanied by voluminous annexes submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, Cunanan said more than P600 million passed through the TRC as the implementing agency of PDAF projects coursed through Napoles’ NGOs while he was deputy director.

Special courts proposed

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday warned that those implicated in the pork barrel scam might escape criminal liability if the cases were not resolved under the Aquino administration.

Cayetano suggested that the Supreme Court designate special courts that would hear the plunder and other charges daily if the Ombudsman found enough merit in the cases to bring them to the Sandiganbayan.

“If we want to fix our criminal justice system, it’s important to have fast trials. All over the world, this is a requirement. The Supreme Court can easily do this if they will bring back the special criminal courts and if they will change the rule on continuous trial,” Cayetano told reporters.

“Second, we know that politics is everything. If a leading candidate, our Vice President [Jejomar Binay], would say the case is weak, that we should take it slowly, that there is trial by publicity, many will become anxious,” he said.

Binay is a political ally of Estrada and Enrile, who likewise has denied wrongdoing. Binay has indicated his intention to seek the presidency in 2016.

“The pork scam case could run for five to 10 years depending on what’s going to happen.  Remember, the powerful will have the edge as the case drags on,” Cayetano said.

“You can’t end the case for the sake of ending it. But if you won’t exert any effort to hasten the cases, our system will not change. The big fish will always get away.”

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New witness in ‘pork’ probe ready for lifestyle check

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TAGS: bank accounts, Dennis Cunanan, fake NGOs, Janet Lim Napoles, pork barrel scam, Senate probe
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