Leave it to the Ombudsman to investigate the pork barrel scam

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee

The report that that the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III is set to hold an inquiry on August 29, 2013 into the alleged misuse of legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork  barrel funds somehow does not sit well with me.

If Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has already created a panel to look into the alleged “ghost projects” reportedly funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of a number of senators and congressmen, why would the senate still make its own inquiry?

We ought to remember that when this stinky controversy hit the fan, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged the senators implicated in the scam to go on leave pending the results of a probe.

“Out of delicadeza, the five senators should go on leave, to erase any doubt that they might use their power or their money to pressure the investigators,” Santiago said.

She was of course referring to Senators Bong Revilla, Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bongbong Marcos and Gregorio Honasan.

The reason why this senate investigation bothers me is that it is in itself fishy because as Miriam observes, “Taking the matter before the Senate ethics committee may also be in vain” and noting further that “senators are loath to investigate their fellow senators.”

I am also doubtful about the result of a senate investigation because at the outset, when this issue erupted, Sen. Franklin Drilon, who was yet to become Senate President, issued an statement, saying, that “an investigation is better left at the hands of the Justice department.”

“Hindi po natin pwedeng imbestigahan ang ating mga sarili (We cannot investigate ourselves),” Drilon said, noting that results of an internal probe will surely be questioned by the public.

That is precisely the reason why I am skeptical about a senate probe involving the scruples of some senators.

For some reason Drilon has changed his mind and is now enjoining his colleagues in the senate  “to respond fully to the questions raised by COA’s findings. We are accountable to our people and they deserve no less than everyone’s full explanation to these questions.”

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., for his part, doesn’t want the House of Representatives to touch with a 10-foot pole the alleged misuse of P10 billion in pork barrel funds of five senators and 23 House members over the past 10 years.

“No. Gugulo lang (It will just get messy). (Justice) Secretary (Leila) de Lima assured me that they are on top of it and expediting it,” said Belmonte, referring to the National Bureau of Investigation’s probe of allegations by six whistle-blowers that Janet Lim Napoles formed a network of fake NGOs to loot taxpayers’ money in conspiracy with lawmakers, their key staff members and certain government personnel.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano said a probe would be “problematic” and “senators and congressmen (might) fight among themselves.”

Those observations said, are we to believe now that the Senate blue ribbon committee will make an impartial investigation and blame members of their ilk for participating in the scam?

To me this is hoodwinking the citizenry – plain and simple.

Whereas the Ombudsman has the primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, and has the authority to file corruption-related criminal charges, if warranted upon a finding of probable cause, against high-ranking officers, including lawmakers, the Senate investigation will go through the whole shebang, as they always claim, “to conduct public hearings, in aid of legislation …”

Certainly, the probe will end up naming who the culprits are, except them.

Those lawmakers allegedly involved will come out smelling like a rose again.

My only question to the lawmakers is this: If you allow your scandalous amount of PDAF to be used by some mentioned NGOs, wouldn’t you want to find out who they are, how it is being used, how it is progressing and how it is benefiting the people?

This is the only way you will find out, as an honorable man who cares for the money spent, whether or not you are channeling the taxpayer’s money to an existing or non-existent NGO.

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