Lawmakers await bombshell; Jinggoy, Bong cautioned
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen cautioned Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. yesterday on the supposed “bombshell” on the pork barrel fund scam that the two are scheduled to explode in privilege speeches this week.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite said the plan of the two to target their own Senate colleagues and possibly some members of the House of Representatives “is not a defense on their part.”

“Targeting your own colleagues after you have been charged with plunder is not a defense. It’s more like an admission of wrongdoing on your part,” he said.

Barzaga is one of the leaders of the National Unity Party, which groups former Lakas members. He chairs the House committee on games and amusement. NUP is part of the Liberal Party-led majority coalition in the House.

Though Barzaga started his congressional stint in 2007, he is not mentioned in the Commission on Audit (COA) special report on the use of pork barrel funds between 2007 and 2009.

He has confined the use of his funds to his district mostly on infrastructure projects, scholarships and medical assistance.

According to the COA report, Estrada, Revilla, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan gave P1.1 billion to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles during the three-year period covered by the audit.

Estrada, Revilla and Enrile have been charged with plunder before the Ombudsman’s office, along with Napoles. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) claims the three senators received from the Napoles NGOs P581 million in kickbacks. They deny any wrongdoing.

Estrada will reportedly mention senators and House members named in the COA report but against whom no charges have been filed yet.

Barzaga said there is no need for Estrada and Revilla to expose their own colleagues’ alleged misdeeds in their planned privilege speeches.

“The pork barrel scam investigation is not yet complete, and President Aquino has promised that nobody would be spared and cases would be filed against anybody to whomsoever the evidence will lead,” he said.

He said lawmakers who repeatedly gave funds to bogus NGOs should instead explain why they did so.

For his part, Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said senators who have been accused of misusing their pork barrel funds should prepare for their defense instead of resorting to mud throwing.

“If they are accused of using fake NGOs, they should prove that these NGOs are not fake. If the accusation is that their funds went to non-existent beneficiaries, they should disprove that by producing genuine beneficiaries,” he said.

Zamora said senators should also explain why they “bunched” their PDAF together in some common beneficiary-towns and Napoles NGOs.

Political analysts said Estrada and Revilla are apparently working on a “burn the house down” scenario.

“The opposition already forewarned the public of a bombshell on Monday. They have been saying that from the day (Justice) Secretary (Leila) de Lima brought the so-called ‘truckloads of evidence’ on the Napoles pork barrel scam to the Ombudsman,” said professor Benito Lim, who teaches political science at Ateneo.

“It is completely cynical on our part if we say or declare that all of them are corrupt. If the majority there are corrupt, the house will go down. But if it’s just a few, the institution will survive,” he said.

Lim raised the possibility that Estrada and Revilla are planning to target their colleagues to divert public attention and scrutiny away from them.

Another Ateneo professor, Benjamin Muego, said any bombshell would become a dud if it does not result in the filing of charges, prosecution and conviction of those implicated in irregularities.    

Barzaga also defended Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for giving her office a one-year deadline to evaluate the evidence against those accused in the pork barrel scam and to file charges with the Sandiganbayan.

“Considering the truckloads of evidence as described by Secretary De Lima and the number of transactions involved, I would earnestly say that the statement of the Ombudsman that she would finish the preliminary investigation in one year is very reasonable,” he said.

Barzaga, a practicing lawyer-accountant for many years, said the Ombudsman’s office has the legal obligation to conduct preliminary investigation to determine the existence of probable cause before filing of criminal cases with the Sandiganbayan.

“The respondents, in the course of the preliminary investigation, have the right under the Constitution to be informed of the nature of the accusation against them,” he added.

Sen. Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said his client is ready to defend himself and the senator will rebut all allegations hurled by whistleblower Benhur Luy and the NBI.

Revilla is set to deliver his privilege speech to give his side over allegations.

The senator will likely discuss how the PDAF is disposed by the Department of Budget and Management and the disbursement of the Malampaya funds, which is directly under the control of Malacañang, Bodegon said.

Bodegon said the Malampaya fund scam – involving over P900 million in fund alleged misuse – is purely under control of the executive department, particularly the Office of the President, the DBM, and implementing agencies.

He said the senator will likely also speak about how he is being pilloried as a criminal by the present Aquino administration over the pork barrel fund use. 

Bodegon said that prior to the attacks, the NBI raided his Cavite mansion on purported reports that there were armed men at his house at the height of the May elections. 

Revilla has been at odds with the Palace especially during the recently concluded elections when President Aquino and the administration backed Team PNoy coalition supported the gubernatorial bid of his political rival Ayong Maliksi, who lost in the last polls. – With Edu Punay, Christina Mendez

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