Palace official denies pork coverup

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Malacañang on Sunday denied that it was protecting allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd implicated in the pork barrel fund scam.

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Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Palace also wants to known who should be held accountable for the abuse of the pork barrel funds.

”Sa simula’t sapol, malinaw po ang batayang prinsipyo ng ating Pangulo at pamahalaan: kinakailangang hayaan iyong ebidensiya na magturo kung saan patungo ang imbestigasyon [Since the very beginning, the basic principles of the President and the government is clear: let the evidence guide the direction of the investigations],” Coloma said in a radio interview.

According to him, Malacañang has no hand in the investigation and that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has jurisdiction over cases.

”Nakapagsampa na po sila nang mga complaint[s]sa Office of the Ombudsman at siguro po [ang]pinakamainam ay hayaan na lang nating maganap ng buo ang mga prosesong iyan [The DOJ has already filed the complaint, allow the process to proceed and take shape,” he added

United Nationalist Alliance Secretary General Toby Tiangco earlier said allies of Aquino linked to the anomaly have not been charged, unlike lawmakers who are members of the opposition who are facing plunder and graft complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Tiangco lamented that neither Malacañang nor the Department of Justice has taken any concrete action against the lawmakers who reportedly transferred more than P1.7 billion in pork barrel funds to dubious foundations and non-government organizations.

But Coloma stressed that the Justice department is carefully studying the COA findings.

”Hindi ibig sabihin na kapag may naiulat na COA findings ay dapat ay kasuhan na ang nakasangkot doon [It doesn’t mean that if someone is mentioned in the COA findings, a case will already be filed against him or her],” he explained.

”Iba’t iba po ang nilalaman ng mga COA audit report kaya yan ang pinag-aaralan at sinisiyasat ng ating Department of Justice [The COA audit report has a variety of findings and that is what the DOJ is studying],” Coloma added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said government should set a deadline on accepting witnesses because its continuous effort to look for potential witnesses could be an indication that the case is weak.

Pimentel, who chairs the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said that although there is no existing policy limiting the period of accepting state witnesses, the DOJ or the Ombudsman can set a deadline of their own.

Besides Benhur Luy, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suña, Arlene Baltazar and Monette Briones, the Justice department recently included as provisional witnesses socialite Ruby Tuason and former Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general Dennis Cunanan.

Tuason, the former social secretary of ex-president Joseph Estrada, claimed that she delivered cash to Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada. The money was his commission from projects funded by his pork barrel.

Cunanan, who is set to appear before the Senate Blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, had said that Estrada and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. lobbied for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.

There are also reports that the Justice department is currently convincing other individuals including former aides of senators implicated in the scam to testify against their former bosses.

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