Palace insists anew no allies spared in PDAF probe

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang insisted anew that allies of the Aquino administration will not be spared from prosecution if found guilty of pocketing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel from 2007-2009.

This, after an Inquirer report tagged some allies of President Benigno Aquino III as having funneled their PDAF to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through National Agri-business Corporation (Nabcor), a government-owned company, in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

According to the report, 83 lawmakers were guilty of siphoning their pork barrel to Nabcor. Of that number, several incumbent congressmen are allies of the administration. (READ: Nabcor, ZREC funded NGOs without vetting)

"What we have always maintained is that where the evidence leads, the DOJ (Department of Justice) will investigate. So we will leave it with the DOJ to assess and evaluate those cases that you referred to," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Monday, March 17.

Lacierda also said allegations of the administration protecting its allies should no longer be a concern especially after charges were filed against one ally, former Customs chief Ruffy Biazon. Evidence tagged him as having been involved in the scam.

"And also the fact that we already have an ally who already has cases that [have] been filed against him, that should douse any suspicion or fear that this government is set to protect its allies," he said.

Among the 19 incumbent congressmen and 9 former congressmen alleged to have used Nabcor and who are allies of the President are Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Secretary Joel Villanueva who used P15 million of his PDAF; Niel Tupas, Iloilo Congressman and the lead prosecutor of the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona who used P5 million; and ruling Liberal Party treasurer and Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali who used P4.8 million.

While Lacierda gave assurances all those guilty, regardless of party affiliation, would be prosecuted, he also said the events "happened prior to the administration." Aquino's term began in 2010.

"You must also remember that this was a time where LP was not in power and a number of these people during the time belonged to different parties. It is not the affiliation of the present time, but rather during the time when...this audit was conducted, and this is precisely the audit of 2007 to 2009," he said. – Rappler.com