‘More lawmakers dealt with Napoles’
MANILA, Philippines—More members of the 12th Congress (2001-2004) were likely to have dealt with suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, who cornered the government’s P407-million computer supply contract in 2002 and 2003.
Current Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla, who was the House minority leader in the 12th Congress, confirmed that funds were released for the Department of Transportation and Communications’ computerization program more than a decade ago but said he was unaware if Napoles’ Jo-Chris Trading had hogged the contract and how the computers were divided among the minority bloc members.
“We did not know then who Napoles was and whether she had transactions with the government. She only became popular recently. Ultimately, however, it is the agency concerned, like the DOTC, that implements the program and decides which company or trader is awarded the contract,” Padilla said.
Lawyer Levito Baligod had provided the Inquirer with documents that showed that the House minority bloc had received P89.885-million worth of computers from Jo-Chris Trading in 2002 and another P40.956-million worth in 2003.
In a phone interview, Padilla said there were 21 to 25 members of the House minority bloc at the time but he declined to name them as he had yet to confirm if the computers were actually delivered and how much was allocated for each member.
Padilla clarified that the funds for the DOTC computerization program had come neither from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel nor from congressional insertions as claimed by Baligod, who represents some whistle-blowers against Napoles.
“It was a lump sum item that was part of the president’s budget. We (minority bloc) scrutinized it on where it would go because we wanted an assurance that our districts would not suffer from the allocation of resources just because we were not part of the majority,” Padilla said.
“Our concerns then during budget deliberations were to ensure that lump sum items in the budget were properly scrutinized and implemented. That the amounts were distributed to districts based on need and not political considerations, he added.”
For the record
Padilla said he would wait to get the official records of the program before making any further comment.
But he added: “For the record, not a single centavo of my PDAF had been set aside through the DOTC.”
Aside from minority members, lawmakers belonging to the House majority bloc at the time were also likely to be named as having dealt with Napoles since close to P60 million in DOTC computerization funds was released to them, led by incumbent Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and then Malabon-Navotas Rep. Felipe Sandoval II. The documents did not identify the majority members who received the funds.
The lawmakers named in the documents, however, were former Senators Manuel Villar, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Robert Jaworski and the late Robert Barbers, and former Representatives Zenaida Ducut of Pampanga and former Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo.
Through his legal counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, Arroyo issued a statement denying that he received DOTC funds that went to Napoles.
“I wish to state for the record that I had made no endorsement, by any means, of any funds purportedly coming from a certain SARO issued by former Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin in October of 2002 and November of 2003, in my capacity as a member of the House of Representatives.
Congressman in 2004
“Official records will show that I first became congressman representing the second district of Pampanga only on July 1, 2004, as part of the 13th Congress. Therefore, I could not have had any access to funds released to Congress by way of congressional initiatives or insertions before that time,” Arroyo said.
The documents showed that Arroyo received the DOTC funds when he was vice governor of Pampanga in 2003. In 2004, he replaced Ducut as Pampanga’s second-district representative.
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