De Lima: Media payoffs to be probed
MANILA, Philippines—No sacred cows in the pork barrel investigations.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima stressed this on Wednesday following claims by a new set of whistle-blowers that at least two broadcast journalists benefited from the diversion of more than P1 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
“We will evaluate first the sworn statements of the Nabcor whistle-blowers,” De Lima said in text messages to reporters.
De Lima said she would have copies this week of the affidavits of former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vicente Cacal submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman alleging that upon instructions of 83 lawmakers the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture channeled P1.7 billion of their PDAF allocations to questionable NGOS from 2007 to 2009.
Most of these NGOs were allegedly controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion racket that siphoned funds meant to ease rural poverty to kickbacks and ghost projects.
Asked whether there would be no sacred cows in this investigation of alleged involvement of journalists, De Lima said, “Of course.”
Mendoza and Cacal claimed Erwin Tulfo, a TV5 news anchor, and Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, a GMA 7 radio talk show host, were among the beneficiaries of the diversion of the pork barrel funds coursed through Nabcor and subsequently to ghost projects of bogus foundations.
They said a check for P245,535 was issued to Tulfo on March 10, 2009, from a Nabcor account at United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Tektite Branch, PSE Center, in Ortigas, Pasig City.
Magdurulang allegedly received three checks in 2009 totaling P245,535—all drawn from the same corporate account in UCPB.
The checks were described in the accompanying vouchers as “advertising expenses,” according to the documents submitted to the Ombudsman and made available to the Inquirer.
Mendoza said a third broadcast journalist also received P2 million from Nabcor as payoff to stop criticism of the agency. However, she did not have documentation to support her claim against this journalist.
She said she submitted the checks and accompanying documents to the Ombudsman because these were “questionable.”
“I have no other motive but to show proof of irregularities at Nabcor,” Mendoza told the Inquirer.
She said she never had any personal contacts or transactions with the journalists. “I only dealt with documents and I happened to question the payments because they were not accompanied by certificates of performance. It was not personal. It was just in the course of my job.”
In a statement on Wednesday concerning Magdurulang, Mike Enriquez, consultant for radio operations of GMA, said:
“GMA Network places strict and utmost importance on the professional and ethical conduct and behavior of all its employees, particularly those engaged in the field of news and public affairs in all platforms. Any and all information regarding any activity that runs counter to our core values and code of standards are taken very seriously.
“In accordance with standard procedure, we will conduct a thorough investigation on any allegation of any violations. Due process will be observed and we will ensure that full sanctions will be applied if determined to be necessary.
“In the meantime, we will continue to strictly adhere to the standards of professional and personal behavior as required by our standards of professional and personal behavior and by our core values.”
In an official statement on the allegations against Tulfo, TV5 said:
“The station has spoken with Mr. Tulfo, who denies that he has had business dealings with Nabcor, and that any involvement he has had with the said government office were all in the course of his job as a journalist, and did not involve any monetary or business consideration whatsoever.
“TV5 stands by the statement of Mr. Tulfo, but will conduct its own internal inquiry into the matter.”
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