Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that if the Senate proceeds with its public hearing on the Commission on Audit (COA) report concerning billions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) funds allocated by certain lawmakers to suspicious NGOs, “the result could be a freewheeling talkfest, if not a total three-ring circus as senators vie for TV exposure.”
Santiago instead proposed that the Senate should divide its probe into “separate topics, because the scam is so galactic in scope.”
The senator said some of the separate topics should be: lawmakers who gave PDAF funds to suspicious NGOs; the modus operandi of fake NGOs, like those headed by Janet Lim-Napoles; and the connivance of COA resident auditors and Department of Public Works and Highways district engineers.
Santiago said the Senate probe should be based not only on the COA report, but also on the NBI report, which is due to be released soon.
“The COA report seems to have been issued precipitately, without proper fact checking, as exemplified by the cases of Rep. Manuel Zamora and Sen. Edgardo Angara,” the senator said.
Santiago particularly scoffed at the idea that a former senator, whom she called “Pinky Lacson,” should act as adviser or consultant to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee during its hearings, “because he is a former fugitive from justice who remains unpunished and serves as the poster boy for people like Napoles who has disappeared to evade a warrant of arrest, just like he did.”
“A policeman cannot be adviser to a Senate committee probing the pork barrel, because this is a question of law. He has no clue on how the law proceeds in these cases. After a cop finishes his investigation, the report is submitted to the prosecutor, not the other way around,” she said.
The senator said that Lacson’s son lost to the son of Sen. Ramon Bong “Revilla” in the last elections, therefore Lacson cannot be expected to be independent and objective against Revilla.
Revilla is one of the five senators prominently listed as having given their PDAFs to questionable NGOs.
“Pinky Lacson is a political ally of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. At the same time, Lacson is the political enemy of Sen. Revilla. Lacson has no acquaintance with the law, but has revealed his propensity for citing the law after confused coaching by his lawyers. A self-taught lawyer is a menace to society,” she said.
Santiago linked efforts to nominate Lacson as adviser in the Senate pork probe to efforts to eliminate Revilla and other senators from the 2016 elections, either by running for president or vice-president.
“In the investigation of the pork barrel scam, the last thing we need is a self-interested politician. I stand by my original proposal that if the Senate insists on conducting its own probe, the result should be submitted to an independent impartial panel of investigators consisting of former Supreme Court chief justices and associate justices,” she said.
Santiago named former Chief Justices Hilario Davide, Jr., Reynato Puno, and Artemio Panganiban, as well as Justices Ameurfina Melencio Herrera, Vicente Santiago, Consuelo Ynares Santiago (no relation), Adolf Azcuna, Flerida Ruth Romero, and other eminent retired members of the Supreme Court.
“The Blue Ribbon Committee has never appointed an active politician as its consultant. This is a fishy proposal,” the senator said.
Santiago said that Lacson even went so far as to “invent” the story that Santiago spent her PDAF to build a cockpit in Pasig, which she and her husband allegedly own.
“Pinky Lacson made that accusation when he was still a senator, because he was smarting after I called him the “attack dog” of Sen. Enrile. At that time, I exposed to the media that Enrile distributed nearly
P2M as so-called Christmas gifts to every senator except his enemies, including me. Pinky wasted no time in concocting a lie against me,”Santiago said.
An outraged Santiago said: “The truth is that my pork barrel was spent for a multipurpose hall in Pasig, but I gave only a portion of the request because the other portion was shouldered by another senator.
All guns blazing, Santiago attacked Lacson by saying: It defies imagination that I should end up as the owner of a multipurpose hall. Thus, Pinky Lacson is not above inventing things when he is frothing at the mouth. The public has seen how he reacts under pressure during the Kuratong Baleleng rub-out scandal,” she said.
Santiago also said that Lacson purposely lied by accusing her of using Senate funds as rental of her satellite office in Quezon City which occupies one floor of a building that her family owns.
“The Senate Secretariat has already issued a written opinion that I saved money for the Senate, because the rental is very low. I have charged the Senate only the sum of
P70,000 for rental of 403 sq.m., the Senate allows up to P170,000 for rental for other senators, who also have satellite offices. Instead of lauding my efforts to help the Senate to save funds, Lacson without batting an eyelash, charged me with the complete opposite of the facts. He has lied through his teeth. He needs dental work, apart from washing his mouth with soap,” she said.