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Santiago: Senate may lose up to seven members due to ‘pork’ scam

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday the Senate committee on ethics should investigate not only the three senators who have been charged with plunder in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam but also the three or four others who had been linked to the scandal by the whistleblowers.

The outspoken lawmaker warned that the chamber could lose six to seven members when the dust raised by the fraudulent use of the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) settles.

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“Let’s look through the affidavits of the whistleblowers and see who else were named there.  They were named cursorily in the past media coverage but the attention was focused on the top three,” Santiago told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“Now that we have in the process resolved the initial hurdles, we should go to the next ranking senators.  So it’s possible that maybe the Senate may be diminished by maybe… six, seven senators,” she added.

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Santiago made the comments after Sen. Teofisto Guingona released the Blue Ribbon Committee’s draft report recommending that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Jr. be investigated by their peers convened as an ethics panel.

The draft report indicated that the committee found merit in the evidence against the three senators for them to be indicted on plunder and other appropriate charges.

The Office of the Ombudsman has also found probable cause to formally indict the three along with the alleged architect of the scam, Janet Lim Napoles, and several other people on a charge of plunder in the Sandiganbayan. The Office of the Ombudsman, however, has given them a chance to ask for a reconsideration of the results of its preliminary investigation.

“Because the senators have been indicted by an independent constitutional body, with all the more reason the Senate itself should take a similar initiative,” Santiago said. “It must take this measure not only against those three that have been indicted by the Ombudsman but also against the other senators that have been mentioned by the other whistleblowers.”

Aside from Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, the names of Senators Gregorio Honasan, Vicente Sotto III, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., and Loren Legarda have been mentioned in the pork barrel controversy.

Sen. Francis Escudero, the proponent of the Senate inquiry into the pork barrel scam, called on the Senate leadership to convene the Senate committee on ethics.

“If someone would file a complaint, if there is a pending complaint, perhaps it is time to organize the ethics committee to decide on the matter one way or the other,” Escudero said.

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Escudero said the committee report recommending ethics proceedings against the three senators could also be the basis for such.

“But to avoid allegations that those that filed are grandstanding or using Congress for their own interests, it would be better if there would be complainant from outside,” Escudero said.

“The problem now is that the ethics committee has yet to be formed,” Escudero added.

Senate President Franklin Drilon has indicated that ethics proceedings against those implicated in the pork barrel scam were not much of a priority owing to the many laws that need to be passed this year.

Among the priorities of Congress is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law or the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao, a key provision in the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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TAGS: Bong Bong Marcos, Bong Revilla, Chiz Escudero, committee on ethics, Gringo Honasan, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Loren Legarda, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, PDAF scam, pork barrel scam, Senate, Tito Sotto
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