Pork payoffs to media members face probe

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MALACAÑANG on Friday said that the government may initiate an investigation into allegations that some members of the media received “payoffs” from supposed government fund irregularities in 2009.

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“In so far as involving public funds is concerned, I think our responsibility is to investigate. Whether you’re from media, whether you’re from the government, whether you’re from the private sector, if it involves public funds then it now is the responsibility and the mandate, in this case, [of]the Department of Justice to investigate,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.

However, he stressed that there should be enough evidence for such investigation to push ahead.

“Government will only act if there’s information. And if it is an information, we can investigate. There will be instances of chatter or gossip, so we have to separate the chaff from the grain. And the only way we could do that if we will have reliable information to do it,” Lacierda said.

“In the case of the two media personalities, there was an allegation in an affidavit, so from that, we have to investigate. But if it’s just kwentong kutsero, give us something more definite than a kwentong kutsero for Department of Justice to investigate,” he added.

At least two media personalities, Erwin Tulfo and Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, were reported to have benefitted from the funds coursed through the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor).

Nabcor was supposedly one of the implementing government agencies that were used as conduits in the diversion of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to the fake non-government organizations of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

A report earlier quoted former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal as saying that Tulfo received a check for P245,535 on March 10, 2009 drawn from a Nabcor account at United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB), Tektite Branch PSE Center, Ortigas, Pasig City.

On the other hand, Magdurulang received three checks totaling P245,535 on April 27, May 14, and July 6 in 2009, also drawn from the same UCPB account.

The checks were part of documents submitted by Mendoza and Cacal to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The payoffs were allegedly sourced from pork barrel funds coursed through Nabcor, an agency under the Department of Agriculture.

Asked if the alleged pork barrel payoffs should spark discussions on media corruption, Lacierda said that these should start among journalists themselves.

“Rather than having that conversation in government, perhaps the conversation should take place within media itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Palace official asked members of the media to share whatever knowledge they have regarding the case.

“We would encourage you, if you know anything, to help government in fighting corruption and shed light on whatever you know,” Lacierda said
He added that his message is directed not just to media practitioners, but to everyone who has knowledge of any of the controversies.

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