Why 3 Cabinet men are probing new 'pork scam'

Posted at 03/26/14 7:47 PM

MANILA - Why did President Aquino assign three Cabinet secretaries, and not the National Bureau of Investigation, to investigate the alleged funneling of pork barrel funds through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)?

Simply put, the Palace believes the three Palace officials - Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras - are not involved in any irregularity in the NCMF.

Speaking to reporters, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he will ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima if the NBI, or the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC), is already investigating a report that P515 million in pork barrel funds were coursed through the NCMF, which is under the Office of the President.

He said the President asked Ochoa, Abad and Almendras to investigate the report since they are not involved in the operations of the NCMF.

"The DBM Secretary has no role on that matter, similar to the Executive Secretary, and also to the Cabinet Secretary. I suppose there will be no suspicion on the way that the three will be looking into the NCMF issue," he said.

A Commission on Audit report earlier said P515 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen in 2012 ended up in 18 foundations and non-government organizations, some of which are identified with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

The NGOs supposedly used the money for various livelihood projects, training and seminars for Muslim Filipinos.

The report classifies P25 million of the releases as coming from Malacañang’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), while the rest came from the now unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – the congressional pork barrel’s official name.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, an ally of President Aquino, earlier said the allegations, if proven true, would show that corruption can still happen even under an honest president such as Aquino if government fails to put checks and controls in place.

Osmeña earlier criticized Aquino for being honest but an awful manager.

Lacierda said a dialogue with Osmeña is possible even if Malacañang disagrees with the senator's statement.

"Allies can have disagreements...One statement would not unravel a relationship or a friendship," he said.