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Palace backs probe in Abad, Alcala involvement in 'pork' scam

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is backing the Justice Department’s move to determine whether Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala are involved in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.

“The investigation process, evaluation process of DOJ (Department of Justice) under the leadership of Sec. Leila de Lima is colorblind so we support the process,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told radio station dzRB on Saturday.

Lacierda said the evaluation of affidavits submitted by the pork scam whistleblowers took time because the statements have to be supported with documentary evidence.

On Thursday, de Lima said there is no formal investigation yet on Abad and Alcala because her agency is still vetting the affidavit of businesswoman and alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

De Lima stressed that she has no problem conducting a probe on the two cabinet officials, both political allies of the president.

"As to whether or not we’re formally investigating them, that would be premature in the sense that we are still determining if they are in the category that there is enough evidence to move it forward to the Ombudsman," de Lima said.

Three of Aquino’s cabinet members have been tagged in the pork scam, one of the largest corruption issues that hit the government in recent years.  

Abad, a former representative of Batanes, was dragged in the issue after Napoles had claimed that he was the one who taught her how to deal with the government. Napoles said she had learned from Abad that non-government organizations are needed to transact with state agencies.

Abad was also accused of approving a P10-million project involving the Batanes Electric Cooperative.

Abad has denied Napoles’ claim and insisted that he has never dealt with the businesswoman.

Agriculture Secetary and former Quezon Rep. Proceso Alcala, meanwhile, was accused of transacting with the bogus non-government organizations formed by Napoles.

Alcala has denied the allegations and has challenged his accusers to show proof that he benefited from the fund scam.

Meanwhile, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva was identified by pork scam witness Dennis Cunanan as among the lawmakers who channeled their pork funds to Napoles’ fake NGOs.

Villanueva was the representative of the Citizens' Battle Against Corruption party-list when the supposed misuse of funds happened.

The National Bureau of Investigation, however, said there were forgeries in the alleged documents implicating Villanueva in the scam.

No less than President Aquino acted as defender of the embattled cabinet officials as he claimed that their inclusion in the list of pork scam beneficiaries could be part of a plan to muddle the issue.

Aquino has rejected calls to fire officials tagged in the scam, saying he cannot relieve them from their posts unless there is enough evidence linking them to the scam. 

ABAD

ABAD AND ALCALA

AGRICULTURE SECETARY

BATANES ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE

BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION

BUDGET SECRETARY FLORENCIO ABAD AND AGRICULTURE SECRETARY PROCESO ALCALA

DE LIMA

DENNIS CUNANAN

NAPOLES

SCAM

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