File pork scam cases with PACC

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AL S. VITANGCOL III

I ATTENDED on Wednesday the Fernandina media forum which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, having some claim as the oldest in the country with 25 years of uninterrupted history.

Bobby Brillante, a former Makati Vice Mayor, was one of the guests. He is a convenor of the Campaign for Public Accountability (CPA) which is urging the Senate blue ribbon committee to reopen the investigation into the scam involving the congressional pork barrel, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Brillante showed a Commission on Audit (COA) report on how P14 billion in congressional pork was diverted into bogus non-government organizations (NGOs). He said that only P6 billion has been investigated and accounted for through the operations of Janet Lim-Napoles, the detained alleged pork scam queen. Reopening the Senate investigation would help in tracing the remaining P8 billion, Brillante said.

“Who are the legislators and public officials who should be prosecuted and why were they covered up by the partisans of the previous administration?” asked Brillante.

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In addition, he posed the following questions:

“Why is Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales objecting to the reinvestigation and opposing the participation of Napoles as a witness? Is the Ombudsman afraid that with more revelations from Napoles more public officials would be indicted? Is the Ombudsman part of a conspiracy to cover up for some people as she is afraid that the whole truth may come out?”

I can only grin and smile at those questions.

I am glad that I am not the only one who is questioning the integrity of the Ombudsman. I told Brillante that I recently filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the continued stay of Carpio-Morales in the Office of the Ombudsman.

I would suggest to Brillante that instead of seeking a Senate re-investigation he should file the PDAF cases directly with the newly created Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) using the COA report.

You see, the Senate will have its calendar full when the twin impeachment trials roll on. Waiting for it to re-investigate the pork scam would be like throwing the cases to the winds.

Brillante argued that it is the Office of the Ombudsman that has jurisdiction over infractions committed by government officials. Yes, that is correct. But the PACC has concurrent jurisdiction over the same government officials and offenses.

Besides, did he not ask if the Ombudsman was actually part of the conspiracy in the previous administration to cover up the PDAF scam?

President Duterte created the PACC last October 4 with Executive Order No. 43. The PACC was premised on the “need to create a separate commission under the Office of the President solely dedicated to providing assistance to the President in the investigation and hearing of administrative cases and complaints, and in the conduct of lifestyle checks and/or fact-finding inquiries concerning presidential appointees and other public officers allegedly involved in graft and corrupt practices, or have committed other high crimes and/or violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”

The commission is composed of a chairman and four commissioners, all appointed by the President. Majority of the members of the commission are members of the Philippine Bar and must have been engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines for at least five years. The commission’s secretariat is headed by an Executive Director who will execute and administer the policies and decisions of the PACC and manage its day-to-day operations.

Someone reminded me that PACC’s dominion was only within the Executive Branch and its agencies and instrumentalities. Generally, that would be correct. However, there is catch-all provision in Section 5 of the EO. It specifically mandates that, “upon instructions of the President,” or motupropio, the commission may also conduct investigations on all, “including those outside the Executive Branch of government, which may be violative of the Constitution, or contrary to law, rules and regulations, and/or constitute serious misconduct tantamount to betrayal of public trust.”

It is likewise explicitly stated in the EO that the “provisions under Title Seven, Book Two of the Revised Penal Code” is included in the PACC’s authority. Title Seven of the RPC pertains to crimes committed by public officers, including illegal use of public funds, clearly making PDAF-related cases fall within the realm of the newly created anti-corruption body.

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