Enrile ready to face Blue Ribbon gauntlet

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OF the four senators mentioned by chair Grace Pulido Tan of the Commission on Audit (COA) as having allocated their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to seven bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim Napoles, only senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile is willing to be questioned by his colleagues.

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Tan, during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the PDAF scam on Thursday, identified Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan and Enrile as among those who allocated millions from their PDAF to bogus NGOs from 2007 to 2009.

All four lawmakers earlier said that they will be inhibiting themselves from the proceedings in order to erase suspicion that they might influence the hearings.

But Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano, is insisting that the four should attend the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.

“I believe that their presence will not be seen as interfering with the investigation. On the contrary, they might be able to help shed light on the case,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano noted that although senators could not be questioned during such hearings, the chamber can always waive this rule and allow them to be questioned by their colleagues.

Enrile, in an earlier interview said that he is willing to be investigated by his colleagues in the Senate in case the committee invited him.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is a separate interview said that he is willing to submit himself to the proper forum, but did not elaborate if it includes the Blue ribbon investigation.

He said he also ready instructed his staff to do all the documentation and research work on the supposed documents signed on several questionable PDAF allocations.

“My staff have discovered that the signatures of my other staff has been forged,” Estrada said.

Revilla and Honasan have yet to issue their respective statement regarding on going senate probe.

The Blue Ribbon Committee, will subpoena documents that would serve as proof that some legislators endorsed certain NGOs for the fund allocation.

According to Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chair of the committee, the panel is trying to trace where in the process of releasing the PDAF opens the opportunity to divert the fund.

“We learned that there are instances where key procedures were bypassed to ensure that specific NGOs be the beneficiary of the PDAF. We must determine whether this action is illegal. It may be irregular, but we must determine whether the law was violated,” he said.

It was bared in the proceedings that certain legislators would issue endorsement letters directly to the implementing agencies, ordering the respective agency to allot funds to specific NGOs.

The COA said the agencies treated the endorsement letters as their justification to release the fund to the NGO despite the absence of a law that allows transfer of public funds to NGOs.

“We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We need to find the flaws in the system and find appropriate measures to end misuse of public funds,” he added.

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