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Pork barrel scam: Those making threats are the ones scared, says ombudsman

Publication Date : 31-08-2013

 

Despite a death threat, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she was not scared. In fact, she added, those making the threats appear to be scared so they’re trying to “counterscare” her into backing down in her office’s investigation of the Philippine pork barrel scam.

“Excuse me, I’m not scared. Maybe they are scared which is why they’re trying to scare me,” the feisty ombudsman said of the threat she received over the phone.

Morales said her secretary received the call at about 1pm. on Friday while she was attending a forum at the Asian Development Bank.

The threat, she was told, was in connection with her office’s inquiry into the alleged diversion into ghost projects and kickbacks of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also called pork barrel, intended to ease rural poverty.

‘Do what is right’

“The caller said I should take care, that I should do what is right,” Morales recounted. “Well, excuse me, I’d like to believe what I’ve been doing is in accordance with what is right, in accordance with the facts vis-a-vis the law applicable to the facts,” she told reporters at the House of Representatives on the sidelines of a budget hearing by the committee on appropriations.

She said the phone number used to make the threat was now being checked by Malacanang intelligence after her security detail alerted the office of the president about it.

It was the first time she received a threat related to the pork barrel scam, the ombudsman said, “but as far as threatening calls are concerned, there have been others,” she added.

Special audit

“I have told you once and for all that when it’s your time, it’s your time. I’m not scared. They are the ones who are scared. That’s why they’re trying to counter-scare me,” Morales said.

The ombudsman earlier announced that the eight-member Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) would look into the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds that was uncovered in a special audit of the period from 2007 to 2009.

The review conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) was released last week and showed that 82 nongovernment organisations received 6.165 billion pesos (US$138.2 million) from the PDAF allocations of 12 senators and 180 representatives.

The interagency probe is separate from the fact-finding inquiry being conducted by the ombudsman, the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the alleged 10-billion pesos ($22.4 million) pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles, who went into hiding shortly after the NBI issued a warrant for her arrest on charges of illegal detention, surrendered to President Aquino early this week.

‘Confirm, affirm’

Morales said the interagency group will meet next week to “confirm, affirm and validate” whatever had been agreed on by the group.

As to whether Napoles would be called for questioning, she said “it would depend (on whether) we would put her as one of the respondents, because the only charge so far is illegal detention.”

She added:  “Until we get a report and recommendation [from the NBI], everything is on hold.  In the meantime we are conducting our own internal independent investigation.”

The ombudsman said her office has subpoenaed the whistle-blowers to “secure their affidavits.”

She clarified that the ombudsman’s internal fact-finding probe “does not involve” individual senators and congressmen.

“We’re only conducting a fact-finding investigation. Until we are firm in our findings that congressmen or senators are involved, they will not be subjected to the investigation,” she said.
 
Not selective

The ombudsman said the probe would not be selective nor would it target only the opponents of the Aquino administration.

“The fact of being an ally or not being an ally—and I don’t know who are the allies and who are not—will not be factored in the investigation of the case. Sorry, it turns out allies are involved and indicted. Sorry, but that’s my mandate,” she said.

Morales said the probe would follow the usual procedures, from the fact-finding probe to the case buildup. “If we think there ought to be a preliminary investigation, we will issue subpoenas to the respondents and ask them to file counter-affidavits.”

The ombudsman said her office would move for a quick resolution.

“Of course, who doesn’t like speedy investigations? … We want these cases sped up,” she said.

“The outcry of the public for justice is speedy justice. I cannot be part of this procedure (if it) tries to slacken the disposition of cases,” she added.

 

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