Senate probers’ next target: Malampaya Fund
MANILA, Philippines–Sen. Teofisto Guingona III on Tuesday announced that the Blue Ribbon Committee would investigate the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Fund next month.
Guingona said the hearing would be held on Sept. 25 “in the fulfillment of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s mandate to investigate alleged wrongdoings of the government and its public officials.”
He did not say what prompted him to finally schedule the hearing, but there had been calls from opposition senators Jinggoy Estrada and Nancy Binay for the Senate to start the probe on the issue.
On Monday, Binay issued a statement asking about the fate of resolutions she earlier filed calling for an investigation of the Malampaya fund scam.
“If we truly want to uncover the truth then by now, the panel should have at least held one hearing on the issue,” Binay had said.
She also pointed out that many have lost trust in the Senate, and should not be given one more reason to doubt it.
Estrada, who is detained on a plunder charge for the alleged misuse of his pork barrel fund, had also criticized the Blue Ribbon Committee for its failure to start the Malampaya fund investigation.
Dragging its feet
Estrada had surmised that the committee was dragging its feet either because Guingona was not interested in the issue and only promised the investigation so that he would look good, or because Guingona wanted to protect administration allies who might be dragged into the issue.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, are among those facing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Fund.
The Department of Budget and Management cleared the release of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund in December 2009 for assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries affected by back-to-back Tropical Storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” that hit Luzon.
However, the amount was remitted instead to Napoles through 12 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that she had set up.
Begun in 2002, the Malampaya project involves the extraction of natural gas from the waters off Palawan. The government collects royalties from the project.
An investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation showed that those who pocketed the amount meant to rehabilitate areas devastated by storms were officials of the Arroyo administration and Napoles.
In October last year, the DOJ charged former President Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 20 others with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly stealing P900 million from the Malampaya Fund.
Also charged were Arroyo’s executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, Budget Secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque.
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