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TRUTH UNDER OATH | Why Chiz wants whistleblowers, Napoles in Senate hearing
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines  - Saying it is best for the people to hear whistleblowers testify under oath than read their accounts piecemeal in media--and possibly as simple narrations and not as sworn statements--Sen. Chiz Escudero has pressed his bid to have the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee invite them when hearings resume next Thursday.

Escudero, who had filed the resolution mandating the Blue Ribbon investigation, asked the panel to seek court permission to invite detained Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged brains of the pork barrel scam.

Both Napoles and the whistleblowers who revealed her alleged operations to divert Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to bogus NGOs, could shed light on the details of the special audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA), said the senator. The special audit covered years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Napoles’s and the  whistleblowers'  testimonies will clear all the issues surrounding the pork scam, since most details were only culled from media reports, he added.

“Alangan naman hindi namin siya (Napoles) imbitahan parang takot kaming maimbitahan siya at takot kami sa maaari nyang sabihin,” Escudero said, adding that lawyers of some whistleblowers are inclined to bring their clients to the Senate.

Those testimonies are crucial to firm up evidence that 82 NGOs listed in the COA report as having dubious backgrounds and operations, are in fact conspirators in the scam. The committee, however, has thus far focused only on eight NGOs tied to Napoles, or 10 percent of the total cited in the special audit report.

Wala pang direktang evidence ang committee [The panel has no direct evidence so far],” Escudero conceded.

Even if Napoles were to deny ownership of the NGOs involved in the scam, Escudero said the Senate must look at these since the COA mentioned ghost deliveries using fake receipts, non-existent suppliers, and NGOs with either fake addresses or dubious tables of organization.

He also deemed it crucial to hear the whistleblowers now because, as he observed it, many of the NGO officers coming out of the woodwork are all pointing to Napoles, and there might come a time when every one is deemed a whistleblower and only Napoles is left alone to be formally accused. “Darating ang punto na ipapatawag ang mga presidente ng NGO, pero nangyayari nga kay Napoles ngayon yung mga president ng NGO, lahat whistleblower na; actually buong organisasyon ni Napoles baka lahat ay state witness na, lahat ay whistleblower na ang naiiwan lang ay siya,” Escudero said.

Escudero said the Senate panel will petition the Makati Regional Trial Court to allow Napoles to appear before it.

For the whistleblowers, Escudero said that is better for them to make under oath their statements, unlike the piecemeal testimony being circulated in the media.

“Their testimonies in the Senate are crucial because, in the Senate public hearing, the public will see for itself and judge who could be telling the truth. That's much better than them speaking in installment in newspapers---when we don't even know if these are sworn affidavits of the whistle-blowers," said Escudero, speaking in Filipino.

At least, he said, when any self-described whistleblower appears at the Senate, "everything he says is under oath."

He said both he National Bureau of Investigation and the lawyers for the whistleblowers have indicated assent to bringing them to the Senate hearings.

No evidence yet vs legislators, but liability of IAs is clear

Meanwhile, Escudero said there is no direct evidence yet against legislators linked to the pork scam, but it is very clear the implementing agencies are culpable.

The IAs are liable, he said, because “[they did not follow] COA and Government Procurement Policy Board rules on the procurement of services from NGOs.”

The liabilities of implementing agencies fall under Section 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for giving undue advantage to particular NGO, he said.

As for the legislators, if it is proven they received something in exchange for endorsing use of their pork barrel to  dubious NGOs, they may be “liable for graft, malversation or plunder if the amount involved reaches threshold amount” of P50 million, Escudero explained.