The five senators implicated in an alleged billion-peso pork barrel scam should go on leave pending the results of a probe, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.
This, as she urged President Benigno Aquino III to form an independent panel to look into a P10-billion expose involving the use of Priority Development Assistance Funds.
“Out of delicadeza, the five senators should go on leave, to erase any doubt that they might use their power or their money to pressure the investigators,” Santiago said.
She was referring to Senators Bong Revilla, Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bongbong Marcos and Gregorio Honasan who have been linked to ghost projects.
At the same time, solons whose names have been dragged into the controversy have meanwhile vowed to subject themselves to investigations, even as they denied the allegations.
“I submit myself to a full investigation of all my PDAF allocations,” Enrile said, noting however that he has no ties with whistleblower Janet Lim Napoles.
“This issue should really be investigated,” Revilla meanwhile said, while saying that his PDAF is allocated according to government rules and regulations.
He however called the controversy a “demolition job” aimed at pulling down the opposition “especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people.”
While also opening himself to a probe, Marcos said: “I am also exploring the possibility that there may be a political angle to all this in light of the upcoming Presidential elections in 2016.”
Investigative reports recently published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said the senators allocated funds to dummy non-government organizations.
Miriam said a prosecution panel “composed of three people who are beyond the reach of politicians” should handle the case to ensure independence.
Attempts to bring the issue to any other venue would be futile, she said, noting that senators are beyond the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, and may influence the Justice Secretary.
Taking the matter before the Senate ethics committee may also be in vain, Santiago said, noting that “senators are loath to investigate their fellow senators.”
Santiago’s colleagues aren’t shrugging their shoulders either, but were split as to whether or not they should conduct their own probe into an alleged pork barrel scam.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero pushed the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to launch a full-blown investigation on the controversy attributed to a Senate “old boys club.”
“Accountability and transparency in government dictates that this report must be quizzically looked into,” said Escudero said.
For his part, Senator Franklin Drilon, who is poised for the Senate Presidency, said an investigation is better left at the hands of the Justice department.
“Hindi po natin pwedeng imbestigahan ang ating mga sarili (We cannot investigate ourselves),” Drilon said, noting that results of an internal probe will surely be questioned by the public.
Drilon said he is confident Justice chief Leila De Lima, who has yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments composed partly of senators, will remain independent.
“I have confidence to Sec. De Lima. Even if she is not confirmed, she continues to hold office and what is more critical to me is the confidence of the President,” Drilon said.