THE Senate Blue Ribbon committee does not see the need to summon the three senators who reportedly channeled their pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), even if their names kept cropping up during the proceedings.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Blue Ribbon chairman, said the story was still unfolding and more information had to be acquired.
But ultimately, it is up for the three—Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada—to decide if they will go before the committee and answer the allegations.
Former officials of National Agribusiness Corp (Nabcor) and the Zamboanga Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC) who testified at the committee hearing on Thursday all pointed to Enrile, Revilla and Estrada as having channeled their pork barrel fund to questionable NGOs.
The names of the three were also prominent in the presentation of Commission on Audit (COA) of Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan during the Blue Ribbon’s first hearing on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Enrile and Estrada claimed the signatures of their staff members were forged to make it appear they had approved the transfer of their PDAF to several NGOs.
Estrada has said his office discovered that the signatures of his staffers that appeared on the documents obtained by COA were forged.
But Pulido-Tan said Enrile and Revilla confirmed signing for the release of P145 million from their pork barrel to bogus projects of NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, who is said to have masterminded the pork barrel scam.
“We asked concerned authorities for confirmation of their signatures in the documents sourced from government agencies regarding the utilization of (pork barrel) funds,” Pulido-Tan said.
Sen. Francis Escudero said it was up to the three lawmakers to attend the inquiry, but assured that the doors of the committee will always be open for them.
Escudero said Senate rules on inquiries assured the right of anyone, mentioned during the course of the Blue Ribbon hearing to be given a chance to air his or her side.
“But we cannot compel them to attend the Blue Ribbon hearings,” Escudero told reporters on Friday.
Asked if the committee had found any indication of liability on the part of the three senators, Escudero admitted it is difficult to tell, since the panel has yet to obtain the necessary documents from the agencies that were to implement the PDAF-funded projects.
“What we have is the testimony of the officers on the implementing agencies. We still have to see the documents,” Escudero said, referring to the endorsement letters and liquidation reports that the senators reportedly signed.
The committee however was able to find fault on the part of the implementing agencies, particularly their failure to comply with the COA and the Government
Procurement Policy Board’s (GPPB) regulations on getting the services of the NGOs.
Escudero said under the Government Procurement Policy Board’s Resolution No. 12-2007, there are only two ways a project can be awarded to an NGO: by public bidding or by negotiated procurement.
Escudero was mystified by the statement of Allan Javellana, former Nabcor president, that the mere endorsement by a legislator was enough for them to award a contract to a NGO.
Salvador Salacup, current Department of Agriculture assistant secretary and former ZREC president, also admitted that “the only set of validation requirements were the SEC, BIR, LGU permits for project experience and certified financial statements.”
“Now in clear violation of existing laws and regulations, these line agencies simply awarded funding to the seemingly favored NGOs. As long as there are endorsements from legislators, as they admitted, they funneled funds hook, line and sinker,” Escudero said.
Only Enrile has said he is willing to answer questions from his colleagues at a Blue Ribbon hearing.