Palace expects DOJ to look into alleged payoffs to media
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang is counting on the Department of Justice to dig deeper into alleged payoffs to the media, including an alleged P2-million bribe to a broadcast journalist, in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda backed the DOJ’s investigation of allegations that two broadcasters had received payoffs passed off as “advertising expenses’’ from pork barrel funds channeled to phantom projects.
However, Lacierda balked at the idea of the government calling for a dialogue on media corruption, saying this was the media industry’s call.
“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 at a press briefing aired over government radio.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said that journalists found to have benefited from the P10-billion pork barrel scam faced charges of direct bribery and malversation of public funds.
Rhodora Mendoza and Vicente Cacal, former officials of the state-run National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), submitted affidavits to the Ombudsman alleging that TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and GMA 7 radio talk show host Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang received payoffs passed off as advertising expenses.
Both journalists have denied taking money from Nabcor.
A government-owned and controlled corporation, Nabcor served as a conduit for the transfer of allocations from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to dubious non-government organizations between 2007 and 2009.
Mendoza also alleged that a third broadcast journalist received P2 million from Nabcor as payoff to stop criticism of the company, but she presented no documents to support this claim.
Lacierda agreed that the DOJ should also look into the case of the alleged payoff to 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 DOJ to look into it, to investigate. Regardless of the sector, if there is evidence, it will be investigated,’’ he said.
Lacierda said the government could conduct investigation s only on the basis of “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 could do that is if we will have reliable information to do it. For instance, in the case of the two media personalities, there was 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 than a kwentong kutsero for DOJ to investigate,’’ he added.
Lacierda, however, said the media industry, not the government, should decide whether to hold a dialogue on corruption.
“I think that conversation should take place within your circle rather than government,’’ he said in response to a question from a TV reporter, pointing to the “self-policing’’ powers of the media. “That particular discussion or the conversation should take place in media, within your circle.’’
Even so, Lacierda issued this call to the public: “We would encourage you, if you know anything, to help government in fighting corruption and shed light on what you know.’’
Mendoza and Cacal had claimed that 83 lawmakers instructed Nabcor to release P1.7 billion from the PDAF to NGOs set up by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the diversion of pork barrel funds to private pockets.
They also submitted encashed checks to show that Tulfo and Magdurulang benefited from projects financed by 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 and the funds were also drawn from the same Nabcor account at the UCPB Tektite branch.
GMA 7 vowed to thoroughly investigate the charges against Magdurulang and apply sanctions if necessary. TV5, on the other hand, stood by Tulfo’s statement that he had no business dealings with Nabcor, but said it would conduct its own internal inquiry into the matter.
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