• Palace allies block House ‘pork barrel’ probe

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    ALLIES of President Benigno Aquino 3rd at the House of Representatives are blocking the move of minority lawmakers to initiate an investigation into the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” of some lawmakers.

    The resolution seeking an inquiry into the use of the PDAF introduced on Tuesday by the minority bloc did not gain support from the Majority coalition.

    The resolution tasks the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct an investigation into the matter, but Liberal Party (LP) lawmakers Romero Quimbo of Marikina and Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar were adamant that the House does not have the competence to conduct an impartial probe.

    “The magnitude and the destructive effects of the PDAF scam must not be swept into oblivion since the issue is destroying the trust that members of Congress should enjoy from the people they represent,” the Minority bloc said in their House Resolution.

    But for the administration lawmakers, a congressional probe would only muddle the investigation of other agencies.

    “There is already the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the DOJ (Department of Justice) and there are affidavits made by the witnesses. The House doesn’t have the best record in investigating itself. Even if we exhaust all our efforts in this, there will always be an impression that we are protecting ourselves,” Quimbo, a lawyer, pointed out.

    “If our findings contradict that of the NBI and DOJ, what would happen? We won’t achieve anything,” he added.

    Evardone agreed with Quimbo, saying that the President has already ordered the DOJ and NBI to conduct an inquiry.

    “The highest leadership has already ordered the probe. What else are you looking for?” Evardone added.

    Opposition lawmaker Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the administration lawmakers’ refusal to start a probe fuels doubts that a number of the President’s allies are indeed involved in the misuse and abuse of their “pork.”

    “Barring any probe on the pork barrel scam is like allowing plunderers to escape accountability, it condones corruption and is a go signal for thieves to rob the nation’s coffers with impunity not just in Congress but in Malacañang as well,” Ilagan said in a statement.

    “A congressional probe is needed for Congress to verify whether discretionary funds are indeed effective in addressing the basic social needs of the people or whether these funds are merely effective venues for corruption and political patronage,” she added.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Tuesday defended Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala from allegations that he was involved in the alleged misuse PDAF.

    There were allegations that Alcala allowed the P90 million funding of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to be used by bogus organizations under Janet Lim-Napoles.

    Aquino said the alleged crime being pinned on Alcala is small compared to the P728 million fertilizer fund scam during the Arroyo administration that also involved DA officials.

    “[The] fertilizer scam is the tip of the iceberg. The record I think will speak for itself,. In contrast with what got away last time as against those that recently got away],” the President said.

    ”Even in those NGOs that were accredited, there was a big decrease],” he explained.
    The President, however, said the system is not yet perfect and reforms are continuing.

    He said there has been a marked difference in the way that DA funds are being used now, adding that the chances of funds being misused are low.

    Llanesca T. Panti and Catherine S. Valente

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