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Group to Aquino: Let COA audit Palace’s pork barrel

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday dared President Aquino to allow state auditors to scrutinize how he spent his own pork-barrel fund for the past three years.

The Office of the President (OP) has been receiving P24.8-billion pork- barrel fund through the Presidential Social Fund (PSF), since Mr. Aquino assumed office in June 30, 2010, the group said in a statement.

The funds allotted for the OP in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by Malacañang for Congress’ approval are often approved without undergoing scrutiny during budget deliberations.

Budget activists belonging to the Alternative Budget Initiative have been calling for the abolition of the SPF and reiterated its call last week amid the P10-billion pork-barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles who allegedly masterminded the release of lawmakers’ Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

“In the name of truth, justice and public accountability, we hereby task the OP to allow state auditors of COA [Commission on Audit] to perform a honest-to-goodness audit of all the pork barrel granted to Aquino’s office since he assumed the presidency on June 30, 2010,” Pamalakaya Vice Chairman Salvador France urged.

“The Filipino public deserves [to know] the real score and President Aquino must submit himself to public inquiry,” he added.

The Pamalakaya leader said “the audit-free regime on presidential pork barrel is against public interest.”

The group said an audit-free presidential pork barrel is not only prone to big time crime of corruption, but also give political and legal impunity to crimes of plunder and malversation of public funds.

Malacañang has repeatedly rejected the demand for the abolition of the PSF under the OP.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, meanwhile, said on Monday that he will file a resolution asking the Senate Committee on Finance to hold formal hearings on the special audit conducted by the COA on the use of the PDAF from 2007 to 2009.

Recto made the statement in a text message to reporters, when asked if the COA report warranted a Senate inquiry on the alleged PDAF misuse.

“I am in favor of investigating; more so now there is a COA report…. I plan to file a resolution asking the Committee on Finance to hold formal hearings on the COA report,” the senator said.

He said “it is necessary for the Senate to study the COA report, to ask COA for some clarifications, and for COA to explain its report and recommendations.”

“This will be needed in crafting the 2014 budget,” Recto said.

The COA had reported that based on its special audit on the PDAF, P6.156 billion in pork-barrel funds went to 82 questionable NGOs from 2007 to 2009.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he “intended” to pursue a Senate investigation of the alleged PDAF misuse which had been thumbed down, for the moment, by a majority of his fellow senators.

Escudero said questions related to the PDAF issue would expectedly be raised by the senators to concerned government agencies during the budget deliberations but such hearings would be confined only to public officials and not third parties like businesswoman Janet Napoles.

He expressed hope that Recto would “reconsider pursuing the resolution I filed for the blue-ribbon committee to look into this issue.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the growing clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel would prompt the Senate to conduct the probe on the PDAF issue.

“I believe that in light of the immense public pressure, the Senate cannot look away from this pork-barrel scandal anymore. We have to face it squarely if we are to survive as an institution,” Trillanes said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe will file on Tuesday a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry on the “regulation and use” of NGOs in government transactions, in the light of the COA special audit on pork-barrel funds

Poe said in a statement that her decision was based on the findings of the COA special audit on the PDAF use.

In a related development Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay renewed his call to the House leadership to conduct an immediate investigation into the alleged misuse of billions of pesos of PDAF funds.

Atienza, who has been in the forefront in fighting the pork barrel, had filed House Resolution 157 on August 5, calling for the immediate suspension of the implementation of PDAF pending the completion of the investigation by the concerned government agencies regarding the alleged anomalies at the same time to consider initiating very drastic reforms to make the system tamper-proof, short of abolishing it altogether.

 “Let us seriously take up this matter for the good of Congress as an institution.  This is a matter that affects everyone. The sooner the truth comes out, the better for all of us—then we can exonerate the innocent and punish the guilty,” Atienza said.















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