Senators linked to pork scam won't be grilled
MANILA - A Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation on the alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam will not center on lawmakers linked to the scam but on the Commission on Audit report on alleged fund misuse.
In an interview, Sen TG Guingona said fellow senators such as Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. who have been linked to the scam will not be questioned.
"They will attend as senators. They will not be questioned. I’m sure if they have something to say, they will say it," he said.
He added: "If they want to ask clarificatory questions and if they want to ask the resource person, of course. "
Guingona said the Senate investigation is particularly interested in the Commission on Audit report that showed the alleged excess pork barrel allocations to several senators and congressmen as well as the release of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to non-government organizations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The Blue Ribbon Committee chief said the Senate is interested in how the scam was perpetrated, who are involved and how to ensure it will not happen again.
Guingona said the investigation will not include congressmen linked to the scam because of inter-parliamentary courtesy.
He also thumbed down a proposal by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to let former Senator Panfilo Lacson handle an independent investigation on the scam.
"We recognize the integrity and professionalism of Senator Lacson. However, we believe that the Senate Blue Ribbon is capable of determining the truth. I don’t think there’s a need at all," he said.
Guingona said the Senate will invite COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan to explain the audit report and shed light on why there were "clerical errors" in the audit.
He denied that the inquiry will pit the Senate against COA, saying the probe will be "more of clarification rather than adversarial."
"The test is in the investigations, the hearing itself. Most importantly, you must remember ang taong bayan ay makikinig dito. Para malaman nila ano ba itong proseso ng pork barrel. Paano ba ito binibigay. Balik pa rin tayo sa layunin. Ano ang nangyari? ? Paano ba nangyari? Sino may kagagawan? Paano maiiwasan?" he said.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad earlier said the Department of Budget and Management made a mistake in listing then Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora as having received P3 billion in pork barrel funds between 2007-2009.
He said the same special allotment release order (SARO) number was assigned to a P500,000 multi-purpose building project for Way Kurat and to a P3 billion nationwide maintenance project of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Abad said, when COA saw the same SARO number, it concluded that the DPWH project also belonged to Zamora.
The budget chief said the mistake, which happened during his predecessor's term, was due to human error.
He said the processing of SARO numbers used to be done manually. SARO numbers are not computer-generated.
Abad said he has informed COA about the error and has apologized to Zamora's daughter.