Senate to include NABCOR scam in probe

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2014 05:41 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2014 01:41 AM

MANILA - Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Teofisto "TG" Guingona III said on Wednesday he is inclined to expand the hearing on the pork barrel scam to include allegations of misuse of funds that went through National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR).

Senator Miriam Santiago has filed a resolution to invite two former NABCOR officials to the Senate hearing.

"We’re inclined to hear it. Why not?" Guingona said.

He said that the resolution though would have to be taken up by the plenary to have it referred to the committee.

Ex-NABCOR officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal earlier revealed widespread irregularities in the agency amounting to billions of pesos in agricultural funds.

They said these irregularities range from the misuse of the "Ginintuang Masaganang Ani" and pork barrel funds in the past to the hiring of ghost employees in the present administration.

Mendoza said millions of these funds earmarked to help farmers improve their production went instead to the pockets of several legislators and NABCOR officials.

Three non-government organizations set up by alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles allegedly received pork barrel funds of lawmakers through NABCOR.

At least 27 allies of President Aquino have been implicated in the scam.

Mediamen to face Senate but not Yap

Guingona, meanwhile, said mediamen that have allegedly received funds may be invited although they were not included in Santiago's resolution.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Wednesday said TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and Radio DzBB broadcaster Melo del Prado allegedly received payoffs in the form of "advertising expenses" from the government agency in 2009.

The Inquirer report also quoted Mendoza as saying that another "TV and radio personality" received P2 million from NABCOR President Alan Javellana on the instruction of then DA Secretary Arthur Yap "as payoff to stop criticisms of a NABCOR project."

"That can be part of a separate investigation if one will call," Guingona said of the mediamen who were allegedly on the take.

On the other hand, Guingona said he will not invite former agriculture chief and now Bohol 3rd District Rep. Arthur Yap to the Senate investigation.

"He’s presently a congressman so interparliamentary courtesy," he said.

On whether former Senator Edgardo Angara would be invited, Guingona said, "We’ll leave that up to him as we have done with other senators previously during the previous hearings."

Meanwhile, former Palace social secretary Ruby Tuason may be invited back to the blue ribbon committee hearing if the committee decides to tackle the Malampaya fund scam.

Guingona said the committee would have to first evaluate if it will include the fund scam in its probe.

"We will be calling her but we have to review what she said because what she said was the one involved was her brother. But nevertheless we will call her just to clarify things. Definitely sige," he said of Tuason.