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‘Pork mess mere cover-up of Palace corruption’

Former Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV on Tuesday accused the Palace of covering up and diverting public attention from its own “monument of corruption” by making it appear that members of the opposition had allocated their pork barrel to fund ghost projects in return for kickbacks. Cagas, a member of the Nacionalista Party who chose to join the minority bloc in the House, denied having released funds to bogus non-government organizations and turned the tables on the Palace, which he said was behind a P2.8-billion road scam in Davao del Sur. “Since 2010, the Aquino government kept reporting that the 72-kilometer national highway had been completed, yet year-in and year-out, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad allocates taxpayers’ money for the same highway,” Cagas said. Cagas said every year during budget deliberations in the House, he has not failed to bring up the same issue to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, who promised to have it investigated. Cagas said he was deliberately included in the list of lawmakers who were linked to a pork barrel scam allegedly run by Janet Lim-Napoles because the Palace had learned he was ready to expose the multi-billion-peso ghost road projects in Mindanao. He urged President Benigno Aquino III to investigate Abad, Singson and others who allegedly colluded in releasing money for the ghost projects. Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also said his inclusion in the Napoles list was “pure magic.” “My official records show that not a single centavo was released to any anomalous project, particularly on that NGO, whose leaders I haven’t even met,” Marcos said. Marcos agreed with Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. that the attacks were part of a “demolition job” mounted by the administration against the opposition. Revilla and Marcos were considering a team-up for the 2016 presidential elections. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who was also linked to the Napoles affair, said the allegations bore a resemblance to a case last year in which the signatures of his staff were faked. The Commission on Audit at the time had linked him, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Revilla last year to a P195-million scam allegedly involving the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., but it was later discovered that the signatures of his staff members on the liquidation reports were forged, Enrile said. “This prompted me to support a full investigation. Sadly, the issue was soon drowned out by the last political campaign,” he said. Enrile also said he had met with COA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan, and Reps. Florencio Noel and Neptali Gonzales Jr. last year to address concerns that some congressmen were being singled out in the special audit. “But she clarified, in answer to congressman Gonzales’ concern, that the special audit was not directed at the lawmakers but at the implementing agencies. I said that for my part, I understood it was a job COA must do and I personally had no worries about the utilization of my own PDAF being scrutinized by the COA,” said Enrile. While Tan said a final report would be submitted to to the leaders of both chambers of Congress, Enrile said she has still not forwarded the findings of the special audit. In aid of the current investigation of the Napoles case, he urged the COA to release its full report, and not limit its revelations to the opposition. Incoming Senate President Franklin Drilon said there was no need for the five senators implicated in the latest controversy to go on leave. “There is nothing in our rules which would compel them to go on leave. Remember these are just media reports at this stage,” said Drilon. He said it would be better to let the National Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department conduct the investigation. “We can’t investigate ourselves. The public will not believe whatever the results may be because there’s a conflict [of interest],” he said. Last week, Cagas uploaded his expose on “The Monument of Corruption” on the video sharing site YouTube detailing the P2.8-billion 72-kilometer highway that traverses the municipality of Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur up to Glan in Saranggani. He said he was ready to hold a news conference to expose the scam a few days before the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address on July 22. He said even if he had nothing to do with the pork barrel scam, he was included in the list of lawmakers who purportedly released funds to a bogus NGO to preempt his press conference and to undermine his credibility. Cagas said official records will bear him out that Abad had been allocating funds to the “never-ending” road project while Singson had been reporting that some portions of the 72-kilometer stretch had been cemented and finished. But Cagas said: “If we are to connect those parts that were cemented, they would run to three kilometers. That means the cemented roads cost the taxpayers P1 billion for every kilometer because the 72-kilometer project has already used up a total of P2.8 billion and only three kilometers were finished.” This year, he said, some P600 million has been allocated to continue the “completed project.” “I would have understood if the project was a result of a reenacted budget. However, since 2010, there has been no reenacted budget so this is a new budget allocation every year that has now accumulated to P2.8 billion,” Cagas said. He also said the Public Works Department had not declared any savings on the project. “My question now is, where is the money? Where is the project? Who released the money?” Cagas said. Cagas also said Abad can release funds to districts even if the projects there are not identified or endorsed by the congressmen of those districts. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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