Ilang senador at kongresista, itinanggi ang umano’y pagkakadawit ng kanilang pangalan sa PDAF scam

admin   •   May 14, 2014   •   4639

FILE PHOTOS: (L-R) Sen. Tito Sotto, Sen. Chiz Escudero, Sen. Koko Pimentel (UNTV News)

FILE PHOTOS: (L-R) Sen. Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III, Sen. Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III (UNTV News)

MANILA, Philippines — Itinanggi ng ilang senador at kongresista ang pagkakasama ng kanilang pangalan sa listahan ng mga sangkot sa pork barrel scam na hawak ni Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo Lacson.

Ayon kay Senador Francis Escudero, ni piso ay wala siyang inalocate na PDAF sa mga bogus na NGO ni Napoles.

Nagtataka rin ang senador kung bakit tila ginagamit pa ang ilang opisyal ng pamahalaan gaya nina Lacson at De Lima upang ilayo ang isyu kay Napoles.

“Iisa lamang siguro, nais niyang manlanse at paguluhin ang buong isyung ito. Ika nga mas maraming idadamay siya, mas maganda siguro…di naantig, kumpiyansa ako.”

Sinabi pa ni Escudero na iisa lang naman ang pinanggalingan ng iba’t ibang listahang lumabas kaya mas maigi na si Napoles mismo ang magsabi kung sinu-sino ang mga nakatransaksyon niya.

“Ang hindi ko lang maintindihan, bakit nagpapagamit ang mga taong binigyan ng listahan? Sila ang nagsasalita imbes na si Napoles ang nagsasalita.”

“Dagdag pa ni Escudero, “Tila tuloy nagiging tagapagsalita, messenger at ahente sila ni Napoles.”

Para naman kay Senator Bongbong Marcos, ayaw niyang magbigay ng pahayag hangga’t hindi inilalabas ng buo ang listahan.

“Antayin na lang natin yung listahan, kung ano man yung nandun, kung kailangang ipaliwanag, ipapaliwanag,” ani Sen. Marcos.

Maging si Senator Vicente Sotto III ay tumanggi na magbigay ng pahayag sa media.

“Ayoko nang magsalita muna tungkol dyan,” matipid na pahayag ng senador.

Tiwala naman si Senador Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III na hindi siya masasangkot sa scam dahil nauna na nitong tinanggihan si Napoles.

“I’ve met with her but not dealth with her in May 2012 at humingi nga ng project sa PDAF, tinanggihan ko. Kaya if ever may so-called Napoles list, it is bad faith on her part to include me there,” saad nito.

Pinabulanan naman ni Department of Budget and Management Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad na sangkot siya sa pork barrel scam.

Ayon kay Abad, hindi siya kailanman nakipag-ugnayan kay Napoles o kahit sa alinmang pekeng NGO’s sa buong career niya bilang public servant kahit na noong siya ay kongresista pa lamang hanggang sa maging budget secretary.

Dagdag pa nito, ang lahat ng kaniyang sponsored projects noon sa ilalim ng PDAF ay hindi dumaan sa mga fake NGO.

Ayon pa kay Abad, hanggang hindi ipinapakita ang totoong affidavit ni Napoles at masuportahan ng matibay na ebidensya, ang lahat ay pawang
espekulasyon lamang. 

Nananatili namang tahimik ang Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso sa isyu.

Una nang sinabi ni House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. na hindi sila magsasagawa ng parallel investigation sa pork barrel scam.

Hahayaan na lamang anilang ang senado ang maglabas ng pinal na resulta ng imbestigasyon saka sila gagawa ng anumang aksyon oras na may mapatunayang kasalukuyang miyembro ng Kamara na madadawit sa nasabing anomalya.

“Let then bring it up with me and lets talk about it, (will you support?) me? Am not, ’cause am in favor of Senate continuing their investigation, hindi maganda yung there are two bodies doing it,” pahayag ni Belmonte. (Grace Casin / Ruth Navales, UNTV News)

Sotto, Lacson want fresh probe into alleged PhilHealth corruption

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday said a fresh investigation should be conducted into the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) following the resignation of one of its officers.

“There must be a full blown Senate investigation. Allegations and denials abound therefore diligence is necessary,” Sotto said in a statement.

“Where there is smoke, there is fire!” he added.

Lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith resigned from his post in PhilHealth citing “widespread corruption” in the agency as one of his reasons for quitting. He also said in his resignation letter that the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by overseas Filipinos workers was “unconstitutional” and against his personal values to let OFWs “pay for the spillages” of the agency.

He also claimed that there is rampant and patent unfairness in the agency’s promotion process, and that his salary and hazard pay has not been on time since he started investigating Philhealth officers as its “anti-fraud legal officer.”

According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, he is now drafting a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the issue.

“I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday,” Lacson said in a separate statement.

Reports quoting sources said that corruption claims were the topic of an online meeting that led to a shouting match between Philhealth officials on Thursday evening.

“That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable,” Lacson said.

“Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law,” he added.

Last year, the Senate launched a probe into alleged conflict of interest between PhilHealth and the Department of Health. The investigation also covered DOH contracts that went to pharmaceutical firms owned by relatives of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales earlier denied claims of widespread corruption in the agency and called on Keith to substantiate his allegations. He also said that Keith only raised the issue after his application for another post at the agency was turned down.

Morales also denied the alleged resignation of two other PhilHealth officers due to corruption allegations. He said his head executive assistant resigned to pursue his doctoral studies while a corporate counsel denied any news of quitting his post. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

De Lima camp assessing effect of Jaybee Sebastian’s death on her drug cases

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima said her lawyers are now assessing the effects of the death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian on the drug-related charges filed against her.

“My lawyers are still assessing the effect of Sebastian’s death on the cases against me, considering that he is or was the Duterte regime’s supposed ‘star’ witness,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame on Monday.

“However, all testimonies coming from the inmates and some other so-called witnesses are all fabrications anyway. One less fabrication might be good in my case, but let us not forget all the other testimony fabrications. Whether the fabricator is dead or alive does not change the fact that their stories are all lies, and that the cases against me are all fake,” she added.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday said that Sebastian was among the nine high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City who succumbed to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the confirmation following a meeting with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag on Monday afternoon. 

Bantag earlier refused to reveal the name of inmates who died from COVID-19 citing Data Privacy Act.

Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation into the deaths of the inmates after Bantag informed him of the protocol in the event of an inmate’s death from coronavirus disease which include the mandatory cremation of the cadaver within 12 hours to prevent the spread of the infection.

Sebastian was the key witness in the alleged Bilibid drug trade and drug trafficking cases against De Lima which are currently pending before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

The senator, who is one of the Duterte administration’s vocal critics, has been detained since 2017.

“The Duterte regime can have 100 live witnesses for all I care. But this still does not change the fact that the charges against me are absolutely false and fictitious. Conversely, the regime’s witnesses can all be dead, but this will not prevent Duterte and his operators from inventing other evidence to keep me in jail,” De Lima said.

“My point is, under normal conditions, these cases would have been dismissed a long time ago. But under conditions of a dictatorship where it is the dictator himself who has a very personal stake on the cases, and given the state of our justice system, I will not wonder if dead witnesses can still be made to rise from the grave and made to testify,” she added.

Meanwhile, De Lima raised alarm anew over the “dire conditions” existing in the country’s jails during the public health crisis, and even the pre-pandemic times.

“COVID-19 is not a joke, as the Duterte regime has treated it, especially in our prison system that hosts the perfect conditions for the spread of the virus,” she said.

“Regardless of who the dead are, whether free citizens or PDLs, they shall remain to be counted as the victims of the incompetence, indifference, and impunity of the Duterte Administration in dealing with the pandemic that has resulted in more suffering for our people, not to mention the devastation of the economy after months of lockdown but with absolutely nothing to show for it,” she added.

She then called on the Duterte administration to “step down, and hand over the reins of government” to Vice President Leni Robredo.

Several senators laud signing of Anti-Terror Act despite oppositions

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators have lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 despite oppositions coming from different sectors.

“Much credit goes to PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte). With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered the most,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement Friday.

“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president,” he added.

Lacson, one of the principal authors and sponsor of the measure in the Senate, vowed that he would “exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also expressed elation over the enactment of the controversial bill.

“I am glad that the president has sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law!” he said in a message to reporters.

Senator Francis Tolentino also called the signing of the law as “very timely” and “historic” as the nation needed the measure.

“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand [in hand] with economic rejuvenation post COVID-19,” he added.

The new law repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and penalizes those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure allows suspected terrorists to be detained for up to 24 days without warrant. It also authorizes the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets and accounts of individuals or groups tagged as terrorists.

Before it was enacted, the bill was met with widespread opposition from different groups who raised concern over its provisions that could be abused by authorities, stifle dissent and spur human rights violations.

But Sotto said the law has enough safeguards to prevent enforcers from abusing their authority.

“It’s full of safeguards but strong against terrorists. Unlike the old law, it was subject to abuse by the terrorists,” Sotto said.

Lacson has repeatedly defended the measure, saying it has enough protection to ensure the rights of those detained.

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