Angara et al. strongly dispute pork raps
“Giving page one prominence to unsubstantiated and unverified allegations coming from a nonofficial source establishes a dangerous precedent.”
This was the reaction of former Sen. Edgardo Angara to Wednesday’s Inquirer story on the alleged diversion of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that reflected the sentiment of some of the lawmakers named.
“Your front-page story ‘20 Solons Tied to the New P500-M Pork Scam,’ which included my name, is blatantly false and scurrilous as it refers to me.
“Your news source is a statement of Levito Baligod, reportedly having in his possession ‘affidavits along with copies of checks and other documents’ that yet have to be submitted to the Office of Ombudsman, is from an unverified and unsubstantiated source.
“On the mere allegation of a private person, you have accused me of having ‘assigned pork barrel from 2007 to 2010 to fake people’s organizations,” Angara said. “A news report based on an official statement or emanating from a public agency, carries a presumption of regularity. No such presumption applies here.”
He said that Baligod’s claim was “a total falsehood.”
“My former Senate office records, as well as of the Senate committee of finance which endorses transfers, contains no record at all of such assignment—clearly demonstrating false and irresponsible attribution to my office,” he said.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said he would reply to the new charges against him in the “proper forum.”
Most lawmakers, some of them allies of President Aquino, implicated in the purported scam told the Inquirer their signatures were forged and documents were fabricated in the alleged funneling of PDAF allocations to bogus NGOs.
Former party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva, now director general of the Technical Education and Skills Authority (Tesda), said he was prepared to show proof that he never signed any documents linking him to the scam.
No copies of Saros
“I already sound like a broken record in saying that these documents are fake, and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) can attest to this,” he told reporters at the House of Representatives.
“We are prepared to face this. I have never had any dealings, transactions or talks with any of these NGOs,” he said.
Villanueva, who represented the Citizens’ Battle against Corruption (Cibac) group, was shown in documents to have allocated P45 million of his pork barrel to Aaron Foundation, Kaagapay Magpakailanman and Infinite Community Integrated Development Support.
But he said neither his office nor the House appropriations committee had copies of those special allocation release orders (Saros) supposedly covering his PDAF allocation, even though such documentation should be in their hands. “I have no idea where those came from,” he said.
Tupas alerted COA
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said he himself had told the Commission on Audit (COA) that his name was being used for the release of PDAF funds.
“I was the one who informed and alerted the COA in a series of letters to them way back in 2010 when it came to my attention that my signature was being forged to facilitate release of funds from PDAF,” he said.
The lawmaker was said to have facilitated the release of P5 million with Saro number ROCS-08-03696 to Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation.
But Tupas, chair of the House justice committee, said he asked the concerned agency to withhold the implementation and to withhold the release of any fund under his pork barrel allocation.
“Hence, some of the funds that were not yet released were withheld and returned to the national treasury,” he said.
Yacap Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez said she already took steps to clear her name with the COA.
“I maintain my position of innocence and that can be clearly proven should it come to court. This is even the first time that I had encountered such names mentioned in the papers. I have nothing to fear. This could even be an opportunity to put a case closed stamp on my case,” she said.
Go after fake NGOs
The report said Lopez allocated P29 million with Saro numbers ROCS-08-07146 and ROCS-08-05631 to Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation.
“We really have to go after the fake NGOs. They have victimized many good lawmakers. Their forgery of documents and signatures is unbridled,” Lopez said.
“I will not stop until the perpetrators are hunted down and jailed. They faked everything. We have to get to the bottom of this,” she said.
North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco also denied she allocated P60 million of her discretionary fund to Aaron Foundation under the Saro numbers BMB-03240 and ROCS-08-05177.
“The allegations in the article are not true,” she said.
“However, if there will be a formal proceeding or inquiry concerning the matters in the article, then I will be ready and more than willing to face it,” Catamco said.
Arenas a victim
A statement issued by the office of Rep. Rosemarie “Baby” Arenas of Pangasinan province, on behalf of her daughter, former Rep. Rachel Arenas, said:
“We have not received any complaint yet, but we have taken steps to clear issues with the COA. We have reason to believe that the motive behind this is plain and simple harassment. Cong. Rachel (Arenas) downloaded her PDAF to the Department of Agriculture, which is the government entity and the implementing agency in this case.
“She has no business in the disbursement of funds, none whatsoever participation in the implementation of the project, and had no responsibility in the evaluation of said project. She has been compliant with all existing practices and policies on the proper use of PDAF during her two terms in Congress. I feel she has been aggrieved and is very much a victim.”
Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles said he was unaware of the charges filed by Baligod.
Nograles said it had always been his policy not to allocate his PDAF outside his home province. He said he would give a more detailed response once he got a copy of the complaint.—DJ Yap with Nikko Dizon, Gil C. Cabacungan, Christine O. Avendaño and Nestor P. Burgos, Inquirer Visayas
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