Inter-agency body set to probe alleged pork misuse
MANILA - More than a week after the release of a special audit report that showed glaring cases of fund misuse, various government agencies have joined forces to investigate anomalies surrounding lawmakers' priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who chairs the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC), made the announcement in a joint press conference with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday.
The IAAGCC-composed of the Departments of Justice and Finance, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Office of the President, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit (COA), and Office of the Ombudsman-will focus on allegations of pork barrel misuse revealed in the COA's special audit report.
The report was made public on August 16 on the heels of a separate controversy: the P10-billion pork barrel scam, which the DOJ and NBI are currently investigating.
"We are thankful that the COA came out with the report," Morales said.
"We are not bound by the report of the COA, albeit it is going to be easier for us to conduct an investigation."
Morales said IAAGC will verify the COA's findings in its own investigation, for which she and De Lima did not give a timetable. As of now, the inter-agency body does not have documents yet to back up the audit report.
Like the COA report, the IAAGC's investigation will cover the years 2007-2009 but may also widen in scope depending on the evidence it would be able to gather.
De Lima said the COA's report in itself is not evidence. "[But] the COA report is a very crucial and major reference document for case buildup," she added.
The COA's special audit found, among others, that more than P6 billion from various lawmakers' PDAF went to 82 nongovernment organizations with questionable records.
Aside from investigating cases of pork misuse based on the COA report, the Ombudsman is also conducting a probe on the so-called pork barrel scam parallel to that of the NBI.
Morales said the panel she formed to look into the case is currently gathering documents from different government agencies to check if there are areas that need more fact-finding.
The Ombudsman expects to get the NBI's investigation report on the scam in a week or two.
"The NBI is completing the necessary documentary evidence on top of the sworn statements ng aming mga whistleblowers, at ifi-file 'yan sa Office of the Ombudsman in due time," said De Lima. "The Office of the Ombudsman will determine whether or not to subject it to further fact finding investigation … or to proceed or assign it directly to preliminary investigation."
De Lima and Morales guaranteed that the investigations will be fair and will not target only critics of the Aquino administration.
"We don't have any record of being tools of anybody," Morales said. "We assure you of the credibility of the investigation. There is no such thing as kaalyado ng adminuistrasyon o hindi kaalyado ng administration."
De Lima added that the probe will have "no partisan consideration whatsoever."
"We go where the evidence takes us," she said.