An official of the Catholic Church called for ‘humanitarian treatment’ for Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

Lingayen—Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Emiritus Cruz, in a phone interview, said that what Napoles did were “sins attached to her well-being.”

“She’s still human,” he said.

Despite his call for humanitarian treatment, Cruz emphasized that he was “anti-Napoles” because he believes that the fugitive is guilty of illegally pocketing billions, citing her questionable wealth and properties.

Speaking for himself, Cruz said that Napoles could not receive any refuge for she is a sinner.

Meanwhile, Cruz defended the priests whose names were dragged into the scandal for allegedly receiving financial aid from Napoles.

Based on reports, former Quiapo church rector Msgr. Josefino Ramirez is said to be involved with a foundation Napoles set up to help church projects. This was eventually denied by Ramirez.

Besides Napoles, also at the center of the controversy are the lawmakers who donated funds to her ghost NGOs.

A joint probe by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman on the alleged P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and the Commission on Audit (COA) report showing 74 lawmakers exceeded their PDAF allocations by as much as P1 million to P3 billion has been proposed in the House of Representatives on Monday for speedy accountability of erring public officials.

Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna made the call in light of the revelations of the COA audit report on PDAF allocations from 2007 to 2009 which revealed that lawmakers either had excess PDAF, transferred PDAF funds to 82 bogus NGOs, or spent it on implementing government agencies who did not turn over the fund to the identified contractors and suppliers.

“The number of NGOs and legislators reportedly involved in the pork barrel scam has ballooned, meaning it will take some time for the DOJ to investigate these parties after which they will file the complaint with the Ombudsman. I propose a joint DOJ and Ombudsman investigation since the DOJ will ultimately have to file this with the Ombudsman anyway,” Colmenares, a lawyer, argued.

The DOJ is led by Secretary Leila de Lima. On other hand, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales serves as the Ombudsman.

Without a joint DOJ-Ombudsman inquiry, Colmenares underscored that the probe done by the DOJ in cooperation with the National Bureau of Investigation will be repeated by the Ombudsman in the event that the DOJ concludes its probe and files its complaint vs. erring officials before Morales’ office.

“This will not only hasten investigation but also lessen suspicions that the DOJ investigation will attempt to exonerate allies of the President. If we don’t hasten the investigation, it will take years before we see the end of this issue,” Colmenares said.

“With the Sandiganbayan not even fully organized yet, the pork barrel scam could go the way of the Ampatuan trial,” Colmenares added, referring to the 2009 Maguindanao massacre trial which has been moving at a very slow pace because suspects are numbered at least 100.

Also on Monday, Colmenares reiterated his call of abolishing the PDAF system which grants P70 million worth of funding for each member of the House every year for the perusal of a certain lawmaker’s constituents.

Colmenares invoked that while there are legislators who use their PDAF in serving the electorate, it remains anomalous because the PDAF can be used in patronage politics.

“Legislators were not elected by the people to build basketball courts, or waiting sheds or deodorize trash. We were elected to pass laws that will benefit the people as a whole. We can abolish pork and deliver the funds directly to medical and educational needs of the people,” Colmenares said.

“The difference is they can access it directly without asking permission from a senator or a congressman. After all, these are the peoples’ funds anyway, and they have the right to access it directly without asking for our blessings,” Colmenares added.

Akbayan representatives Walden Bello and Barry Gutierrez echoed Colmenares’ call, saying that PDAF runs counter to the Aquino administration’s platform of good governance.

“As a leader who has unequivocally demonstrated his commitment to good governance and honest service, President Aquino must take the bull by its horns and make good on his promise to eradicate systemic corruption by abolishing the PDAF once and for all,” Bello said.

PNoy wants pork retained
The reported misuse by lawmakers of their pork barrel funds and “bogus” NGOs that allegedly abused these public funds are not enough reasons to change the President’s view on the issue.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd still opposed the abolition of the pork barrel funds of lawmakers.

The COA report, he said, cited only a part of the PDAF was saddled with irregularities and not the entire pork barrel system.

“Merong mabuting paggamit, merong maling paggamit [There are proper and improper use of things],” Aquino said, stressing that the pork barrel funds is still good if used properly.

He even related to his some instances when he was still a congressman in Tarlac wherein he used his pork barrel fund to finance a road project which the national government seemed to have ignored.


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