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PNoy: Pork mess Gloria’s undoing

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday expressed disgust at the long list of lawmakers facing criminal charges over their misuse of pork barrel following his order to suspend its release in the second semester. But Aquino blamed his predecessor, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, for her alleged failure to institute safeguards to prevent the misuse of the pork barrel or priority development assistance fund. “I think it is but right that I am disgusted over the PDAF abuses,” he said. “But we have to remind the public [that] all these happened during the past administration that had different policies from us.” Aquino made his statement even as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the congressmen and senators accused of misusing their pork barrel in 2007 to 2009 would be investigated minus three people who were erroneously included by the Commission on Audit in the list. The three are former Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel Way Kurat Zamora (P3 billion), one Luis Abalos (P20 million) and President Aquino. Abad made the correction after House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the P3 billion attributed to Zamora was for the Department of Public Works and Highways.   “Not a single centavo was received by Way Kurat,” Belmonte said. Zamora, who was then known as one of the poorest members of the House of Representatives, expressed relief at being cleared. “They knew that the COA report was wrong,” he said. “Thank you for clearing my name.” Senate President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, called on his colleagues in the Senate to respond fully to the questions raised by the Audit Commission’s findings. “We are accountable to our people and they deserve everyone’s full explanation,” he said. He said the public in the past three weeks had expressed shock and dismay over the reported misuse of P10 billion in pork barrel funds. Drilon said the members of the majority bloc will adopt a resolution stopping the senators’ access to their pork barrel until stricter guidelines were adopted for their release. Belmonte on Wednesday said he does not see any violent reactions from his colleagues, including the opposition, to the decision of the Executive branch to suspend the release of the pork barrel pending the results of the investigation of their misuse by some legislators. “I don’t think anybody...will oppose it in the House,” Belmonte said. Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. said he was willing to subject himself to be investigated over the pork barrel controversy. “Senator Revilla welcomes an impartial investigation on this matter,” Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said. The President said the list of lawmakers to be charged was quite long, but he begged off from giving more details. “When we are ready to file the cases, I will make the announcement by then, lest we be accused of trial by publicity,” he said. Aquino on Tuesday that at least two lawmakers would be among the first to be charged criminally for their involvement in the pork barrel controversy. On Friday, Commission on Audit head Grace Pulido-Tan said 10 non-government organizations with links to businesswoman Janet Napoles received some P2.157 billion in pork barrel between 2007 and 2009. Calls for the abolition of the pork barrel surfaced amid reports that Napoles diverted at least P10 billion in congressional funds to bogus non-government organizations for ghost projects.  With Christine F. Herrera, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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