Palace keeps hands off media men’s link to pork barrel scam | Inquirer News

Palace keeps hands off media men’s link to pork barrel scam

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 02:13 AM March 22, 2014

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Malacañang is not interested in engaging the media in a dialogue on corruption in the industry amid allegations that some journalists benefited from corrupt deals in the P10-billion congressional pork barrel scam.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said dealing with the issue of bribery in the media was the call of the industry, pointing to the “self-policing” powers of the press.

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“That particular discussion or conversation should take place in the media, within your circle, rather than the government,” he told a press briefing on Friday.

Lacierda said the Palace expected the Department of Justice to dig deeper into the allegations that two broadcast journalists received payoffs in the form of “advertising expenses” from pork barrel funds channeled to phantom projects and that another broadcaster received a P2-million bribe.

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“Whether you’re from the media, whether you’re from the government, whether you’re from the private sector, if it’s public funds, it’s now the responsibility and mandate of the Department of Justice to investigate,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said that journalists found to have benefited from the P10-billion pork barrel scam faced charges of direct bribery and malversation of public funds.

Nabcor whistle-blowers

Two former officials of the state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) have alleged in affidavits they submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman that TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and GMA 7 radio talk show host Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang received payoffs recorded as “advertising expenses.”

Both journalists have denied taking any money from Nabcor, one of the state agencies used as conduits to channel legislators’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to projects of the lawmakers’ choosing, which were later found to be nonexistent.

Rhodora Mendoza and Vicente Cacal, former vice president for finance and general services supervisor of Nabcor, respectively, are among 38 government officials and lawmakers facing plunder charges at the Ombudsman’s office in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Obviously hoping to become state witnesses, they are now revealing what they know about the Nabcor part of the conspiracy to convert pork barrel funds into kickbacks for legislators through ghost projects of dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) run by the alleged scam mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles.

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83 lawmakers

According to Mendoza and Cacal, a total of P1.7 billion in PDAF allocations were coursed through Nabcor by 83 lawmakers—including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and ex-Sen. Edgardo Angara from 2007 to 2010.

Of this amount, P925,372,225 was transferred by Nabcor to various NGOs, including those linked to Napoles.

All four senators have denied the allegations.

 

Media bribes

Mendoza and Cacal also submitted cashed checks to show that Tulfo and Magdurulang benefited from projects financed by the PDAF through Nabcor.

They claimed that on March 10, 2009, a check for P245,535 was issued to Tulfo, drawn from a Nabcor account at the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) branch on Tektite Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

They said three checks for a total of P245,535 were issued to Magdurulang in 2009. The funds were also drawn from the same Nabcor account at the UCPB Tektite branch.

Third journalist

GMA 7 vowed to thoroughly investigate the charges against Magdurulang and apply sanctions, if necessary. TV5 has said it is standing by Tulfo’s statement that he had no business dealings with Nabcor, although the TV station said it would conduct its own internal inquiry into the matter.

Mendoza also alleged that a third broadcast journalist received P2 million from Nabcor as payoff to stop criticisms of the state company, but she had no documents to support this claim.

Lacierda said the DOJ should also look into the case of the third broadcast journalist.

“I don’t know why there is a hesitation on the part of Rhodora Mendoza… I think it will be up to the DOJ to look into it, to investigate. Regardless of the sector, if there is evidence, it will be investigated,” he said.

He said the government could only investigate based on “reliable information.”

“There will be instances of chatter or gossip, so we have to separate the chaff from the grain. And the only way we can do that is if we have reliable information. For instance, in the case of the two media personalities, there is an allegation in an affidavit, so from that we have to investigate,” he said.

“But if it’s just kwentong kutsero (idle talk), give us something more definite for the DOJ to investigate,” he added.

Lacierda called on the public: “We would encourage you, if you know anything, to help the government in fighting corruption and shed light on what you know.”

Nabcor is the corporate arm of the Department of Agriculture, tasked to invest in agribusiness enterprises in the countryside to improve the productivity and income of local farmers. It raises funds through loans and grants and private sector investment through joint ventures.

Malacañang ordered Nabcor’s abolition last year after it was linked to the pork barrel scandal.

RELATED STORIES

Media men in payoff may face bribe raps

Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared

Janet Napoles and the pork barrel scam

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TAGS: Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, Edwin Lacierda, Erwin Tulfo, Leila de Lima, malversation, media corruption, media payoffs, Melo del Prado, Nabcor, National Agribusiness Corp., Office of the Ombudsman, pork barrel scam, pork scam
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