De Lima open to meeting journos linked to scam

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2014 01:45 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2014 09:45 PM

MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is willing to sit down with media personalities named by two former National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) officials as having received funds from the agency as "advertising expenses."

De Lima said there is nothing wrong with agreeing to sit down with them, after having learned that the two journalists who allegedly received payments from Nabcor funds as "advertising expenses" are mulling to seek an audience with her.

Though the justice chief refused to confirm the identities of the journalists, reports have identified them to be Erwin Tulfo of TV5, and Melo Del Prado of GMA Radio.

De Lima clarified that she has yet to evaluate the affidavits of Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal and has not yet decided on whether to order an investigation into their claims about the media personalities.

"Okay lang yun [meeting the mediamen] kasi right now we are not yet investigating them. Binabasa ko pa yung affidavits. I got the affidavits last night so I'm still going over them. I'll be evaluating that kaya wala pa akong desisyon kung iimbestigahan ng [National Bureau of Investigation]."

"So titingnan ko na muna, I have not decided yet [whether to order a probe]. If they want to talk to me for whatever, then wala naman sigurong masama doon sa panukala na yan. They might want to explain their side," De Lima said.

An Inquirer report published on Tuesday evening quoted Mendoza and Cacal as saying that TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and Radio DzBB broadcaster Melo del Prado received payoffs in the form of "advertising expenses" from the government agency in 2009.

Mendoza and Cacal said Tulfo received a check for P245,535 on March 10, 2009 drawn from a NABCOR account at United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB), Tektite Branch PSE Center, Ortigas, Pasig City.

On the other hand, Del Prado--Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang in real life--received three checks totaling P245,535 on April 27, May 14, and July 6 in 2009, also drawn from the same UCPB account.

The checks were part of documents submitted by Mendoza and Cacal to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The payoffs were allegedly sourced from pork barrel funds coursed through NABCOR, an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Legal transaction

Tulfo has denied the charges and threatened to file a libel suit against the Inquirer.

Atty. Nelson Borja, Tulfo's counsel, said PDI's headline story is libelous and completely damaging to his stature as a broadcaster.

Borja said his client is ready to face allegations, adding that he has documents to prove that what Tulfo went into was a legal transaction and was payment for an advertising slot while he was still a commentator at RMN DZXL. Those payments were subject to taxes, he said.

Meanwhile, GMA-DZBB will conduct a thorough investigation into the news report.

In a statement, Radio Operations Group consultant Mike Enriquez said: “In accordance with standard procedure, we will conduct a thorough investigation on any allegation of any violations. Due process will be observed and we will ensure that full sanctions will be applied if determined to be necessary.”

He said the network continues to adhere to standards of professional and personal behavior for all employees.