THE massive investigation into the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” of lawmakers may be expanded and will not be limited to transactions done between 2007 and 2009 because the Commission on Audit (COA) has a room full of evidence that may yield more shocking revelations.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that if the evidence will show that there is proof of wrongdoing, then they will look beyond the scope of the COA special audit report, which only covered transactions from 2007 to 2009.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the investigation by the Inter-Agency Graft Coordinating Council (IAGCC) will look at the “pork barrel” fund as a whole and will not zero in on Janet Lim Napoles, supposedly the architect of the scam under which billions of pesos were funneled to non-existing or questionable non-government organizations (NGOs).
Morales, de Lima and Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Grace Tan head the IAGCC, which President Benigno Aquino 3rd tasked to prosecute those who misused public funds and recover the money.
Morales and de Lima said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the council is already in the process of establishing parameters and mechanisms in streamlining the investigation process considering that COA had a “roomful of evidence.”
The Justice chief said that they want to have “enough documentary support” in determining the “paper trail” as to how the PDAF of lawmakers was released to the alleged ghost NGOs and foundations.
“We want to collate evidence and build up a strong case. Gusto nating maniguro na yung sasampahan ng kaso ay may karampatang liability (We want to make sure that those who will be charged are liable),” de Lima said.
She said that the IAGCC will do its best in appreciating and going over verified documents, considering that a week after the COA released its report, the Department of Budget and Management refuted some of the audit findings.
De Lima however said that the 462-page special audit report of COA cannot be considered evidence. Nevertheless, they will be using it as “reference” in conducting their probe.
“People think that with the COA report, we can already file a case. It’s not like that. The COA report is not evidence. It is only a major reference,” she explained.
Morales said that the COA report will aid them in their case build-up and will steer the direction of the council’s investigation to make it easier for the IAGCC to proceed with the probe.
De Lima said that the statements of witnesses, accusers and documents coming from various government agencies will make up their evidence.
Also, documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Department of Budget will also help them follow the “trail” of the fund releases.
Morales said that if they find sufficient evidence against lawmakers, they will be asked to controvert the allegations at the preliminary investigation level.
“The representatives may be lukewarm to COA during its investigation because COA does not have prosecutorial powers. IAGCC has,” the Ombudsman said.
She added that they have already asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to pressure different corporations and NGOs to participate in the fact-finding of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Meanwhile, Morales called on the public to be patient and to not rush the investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against Napoles and the other personalities involved in the P10-billion scam.
She said that her office will also have to go over what the NBI report once the bureau wraps up its probe.
If further fact-finding will be required, the Ombudsman will push for it. However, if it deems the investigation sufficient, it will move to hold preliminary investigation, and implicated lawmakers will have the chance to refute allegations thrown against them.
“We have to let them file their counter-affidavits. Let us not rush the Ombudsman into filing a case. We need to strategize the case so we can file a case or two or three depending on the complexity of the issues,” Morales said.
She however could not say when the investigation will be finished or complaints filed in court, noting that it took COA two years to finish its special audit.
Morales also said that the investigation is not a “ripple effect” of the One Million March held in Luneta on Monday, stressing that the probe was triggered by the illegal detention case filed against Napoles by Benhur Luy before the DOJ.
The Ombudsman warned lawmakers, including allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, not to seek intercession from her office.
“[The Ombudsman] doesn’t have any record of being tools of anybody—to spare this fellow or that and make it hard for the others. There is no such thing as kaalyado ng administration at hindi kaalyado ng administration,” Morales said.