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Palace not averse to special court trying pork barrel scam cases

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MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang favors the creation of a special court to try cases related to the P10-billion pork barrel scam, a spokesperson said Saturday.

Recalling a past statement by President Benigno Aquino III, Abigail Valte said on radio that the President was amenable to this suggestion although he realized that was within the prerogative of the judiciary.

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“We don’t have any problem with this (suggestion). But, in this instance, we’re hopeful that if this would be granted by the Supreme Court, this could really help hasten the process,” Valte said.

Valte disagreed with a claim by a spokesman for the United Nationalist Alliance that the Aquino administration was engaged in “selective prosecution” of the opposition because no administration ally in either house of Congress has been charged in connection with the diversion of legislators’s pork barrel funds.

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“The Office of the Special Prosecutor is under the Office of the Ombudsman, which is an independent entity, which is separate from the Executive,” Valte said. “So I don’t know why he (Rep. Tobias Tiangco) is blaming and accusing us of selective prosecution when in fact… we don’t have a hand in running the affairs of the Office of the Ombudsman, much less the Office of the Special Prosecutor.”

Valte said Tiangco, the UNA secretary general, should direct his complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Valte also disagreed with UNA’s claim that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. have been the administration’s favorite whipping boys.

“With respect to the charges—the cases filed by the DOJ—the basis is clear. There are documentary evidence and witnesses pointing to the three senators involved and linked allegedly to the modus operandi run by Janet Napoles.”

In a statement on Saturday, Tiangco lamented that “exactly 200 days after the Commission on Audit released its report on… the alleged involvement of 32 other lawmakers in the (misuse of) Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Aquino Administration has not acted on the recommendation of the Commission.”

Tiangco noted that neither Malacañang nor the Department of Justice, through the National Bureau of Investigation,  has taken “any concrete or far-reaching action against those named in the 2013 COA Report who transferred more than P1.7 billion ‘pork’ to dubious foundations and non-government organizations” allegedly controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.

“Imagine, 200 days have passed but not an ally of the Liberal Party has been charged. Where does the ‘straight path’ lead?” Tiangco asked.

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He noted that several administration allies were mentioned in the COA report, which listed questionable disbursements made by three senators, 32 members of the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009, Tiangco said.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, is pushing for daily hearings when pork barrel cases reach the Sandiganbayan.

In a statement, Cayetano said that a protracted trial would “practically deny the justice being sought by the Filipino people for the corruption of public funds.”

The senator said that his proposal needed no legislation by Congress, as the Supreme Court could designate special criminal courts.

“A speedy resolution of the pork barrel scandal and other high-profile cases is important in restoring the faith and confidence of the people in the government, amidst fears that politics may hinder the full prosecution of those involved in graft cases,” he said.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Government, Janet Lim-Napoles and the pork barrel scam, Malacañang, Politics, pork barrel scam, Special Court
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