5 senators tagged in 'pork barrel scam'

Posted at 07/15/2013 11:12 PM | Updated as of 07/15/2013 11:12 PM

MANILA - Five senators have been implicated in the alleged scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers worth billions of pesos.

One of them suspects a demolition job against the opposition.

Based on sworn statements submitted to the Department of Justice by whistleblowers Benhur Luy -- an employee and relative of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, his parents Arturo and Gertrudes, and Merlina Sunas, also a JLN Corp. employee, 5 senators and 11 house representatives benefited from the alleged scam from 2006 to 2011.
 
Napoles' JLN was allegedly in cahoots with implementing agencies such as the National Agri-business Corp. and the Technology Resource Center.
 
Based on the affidavits that contain special allotment release orders (SAROs) from the Department of Budget and Management, around P7.9 billion in pork barrel funds were allegedly misused for the said period.
 
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Eenrile topped the list of senators with P150 million, followed by Sen. Bong Revilla with P92 million, and Sen Jinggoy Estrada with P81.5 million.

Among the congressmen, Erwin Chiongbian and Rizalina Lanete supposedly allocated the most pork to JLN.

A huge chunk of the alleged questionable pork went to the Masaganang Ani Foundation, one of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foundations Napoles allegedly put up to make the transactions appear legal.
 
For soft projects such as the distribution of medicines and fertilizers, lawmakers allegedly pocket 40-70% of the pork barrel.
 
For hard projects such as those involving infrastructure, the kickback is allegedly 15-25%.
 
The senators named in the affidavits vehemently deny the allegations.
 
 "I am submitting myself to a full investigation and audit of all my PDAF allocations over the years I served as senator," Enrile said.
 
"I have not received any bribe or in any way financially benefited from nor in exchange for the utilization of my PDAF," he added.

He said he does not know Napoles and never personally benefitted from his pork barrel funds.

Revilla called it a "demolition job" by the administration against the opposition.

"This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose -- to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people," he said.

"Any allegations, insinuations of irregularity must be backed up by evidence in the proper courts of law subject to due process and not politically motivated, suspicious, or malicious trial by publicity," Sen. Gringo Honasan said.

Honasan said he does not know, has never met, or transacted with Napoles.

He challenged their accusers to present evidence before the appropriate venue instead of resorting to trial by publicity.

Of the congressmen named, only La Union Rep. Victor Ortega has so far given his side.

"I have not met her. Di ko kilala, di ko nakausap, di ko nakikita. Ang PDAF ko nasa website," he said.

Senator Francis Escudero has filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry into the alleged scam.
 
But Senator Franklin Drilon -- likely the incoming Senate president -- said the matter is best left to the National Bureau of Investigation because fellow senators are being implicated.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meantime, believes the concerned lawmakers should take a leave of absence.
 
"Kung may delicadeza sila, mag-leave sila immediately. Hindi naman 'to iimbestigahan ng mga senador habang nandiyan sila," she said.
 
The whistleblowers are calling on the DBM to open the records of the pork barrel disbursements to check once and for all who is telling the truth, and for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into the accounts of Napoles and the implicated lawmakers. - ANC