Miriam wants Cunanan to face Senate

Posted at 02/21/2014 3:54 PM

MANILA – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wants former Technology Resource Center (TRC) general manager Dennis Cunanan to be summoned to the Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam.

Santiago on Friday filed an urgent resolution asking the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to summon Cunanan as a resource person to the ongoing investigation.

"It is in the public's strong interest for Cunanan to testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee's ongoing hearing on the PDAF scam; he can divulge information on the criminal involvement of certain public officials in the scam, and how the scam is perpetuated through the exploitation of loopholes in the disbursement of government funds," Santiago said in her resolution.

"The more eyewitnesses come forward, the stronger will be the case for plunder filed by the justice department before the Ombudsman; and consequently, the stronger will be the case for plunder filed by the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan," she added.

Santiago filed the resolution as Cunanan was accepted into the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Witness Protection Program "provisionally," subject to the final approval of the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a press conference Friday, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said Cunanan gave vital information including documents that belied the claims of some senators that they did not handpick or certify non-government organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to be the project implementors of their pork barrel projects.

Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile are among 38 individuals facing plunder, bribery and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged links to the scam.

The scam saw priority development assistance funds of lawmakers being funneled to fake NGOs of Napoles, in exchange for kickbacks.

The Commission on Audit said more than P2 billion in PDAF was funneled to Napoles NGOs in 2007-2009.

De Lima said the 3 senators - Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada - have been trying to shift the blame in the pork barrel scam to the implementing agencies by saying that they do not choose which NGOs ultimately receive the money.

However, letter-endorsements submitted by Cunanan to the Department of Justice tell a different story. In it, the accused senators are shown to identify not just the projects where their funds would be allocated but which NGOs will implement the projects.

De Lima said Cunanan also submitted copies of the memoranda of agreement between the Napoles NGO, the implementing agency and the office of the senators.

One MOA submitted by Cunanan involved a P35 million project endorsed by the Office of Senator Revilla. The MOA is signed by Senator Revilla and his chief political officer, Atty. Richard Cambe, and former TRC chief Antonio Ortiz.

De Lima said Cunanan made several phone calls to the offices of Senators Estrada, Enrile and Revilla to verify the signatures in the letter-endorsements and MOAs.

Except for Enrile, Revilla and Estrada personally confirmed that the signatures in the documents were authentic, according to Cunanan.

In the case of Enrile, it was his chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes, who signed for the senator.

De Lima said Cunanan also revealed that pork scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy visited his office to follow up on the release of the funds. Luy then called Senators Revilla and Estrada over his cellphone and then handed the phone to the TRC chief.

De Lima said Senators Revilla and Estrada "admonished [Cunanan] na bakit daw hindi kaagad rine release yung mga pondo relative to those projects."

The justice chief said she firmly believes that the signatures of senators in the letter-requests to the Senate Finance Committee, letter-endorsements of NGOs and MOA were not forged.

However, she said it is possible that the signatures in the liquidation reports of the projects might have been forged as testified to by the pork scam whistle-blowers. She said the liquidation reports were done to show "some semblance of compliance."

She also said that concerned officials in the implementing agencies being linked to the scam also have responsibility in the scam. - with David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com