MANILA – Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Grace Pulido-Tan on Thursday vowed to get back pork barrel funds from Senator Jinggoy Estrada found to have been misused based on an audit report.
Pulido-Tan, who was called out by Estrada for presenting supposedly incomplete audit reports that seemed to focus on select lawmakers, said she will work on the "notice of disallowance" for Estrada.
Pulido-Tan explained that a notice of disallowance is COA's tool to get back public funds found to have been misused. The COA chief said notices of disallowance can be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court.
"Siya ang aming unang padadalhan. Baka ma-disappoint na naman kasi siya, baka sabihin niya may pagkukulang na naman kami so I made a mental note sabi ko, 'kayo po ang unahin namin para hindi kami makalimot," Pulido-Tan told dzMM.
In his speech at the Senate yesterday, Estrada particularly noted that not a single notice of disallowance was issued under the special audit report for the pork barrel funds, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
"Mga kababayan, eto po ang kopya ng COA special audit report. More than 450 pages all in all. And nowhere, nowhere in all these pages can you find a single peso of disallowance or even a suspension! Ito po dapat ang nagpahagulgol kay chairman Pulido-Tan," Estrada said.
The special audit report revealed that Estrada and fellow minority senators Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile coursed their pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations set up by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The report showed that several NGOs linked to Napoles received P1.23 billion from Estrada, Sen. Bong Revilla and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile from 2007 to 2009.
Plunder, graft and malversation charges have since been filed against Estrada, Revilla, Enrile and 34 other people by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
In the complaint, the NBI said Estrada got P183,793,750 in kickbacks from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. The complaint said Revilla got P224,512,500 in kickbacks while Enrile got P174,834,500.
Tan said she was not hurt by Estrada's speech yesterday. She said COA was even vindicated after Estrada used the commision's data in citing the supposed misuse of funds of several lawmakers and government officials with close ties to the Aquino administration.
Among the names mentioned by Estrada are House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, former An Waray party-list Representative Florencio Noel, senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano, and former senators Francis Pangilinan and Manny Villar.
"Ang mga binaggit na pangalan ni Senador Jinggoy kagabi, na mga administration legislators daw, hinango lang sa aming sariling report. Kaya ako ay natutuawa dahil binigyan niya ng importansya ang aming report," she said.
After the plunder charges were filed, Estrada said he felt that the minority senators are being singled out by the government.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in today's Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, however said that the cases were filed since the contents of the COA report have already been corroborated by the testimonies and documentary pieces of evidence of the whistle-blowers, mostly former Napoles employees.
Pulido-Tan, meanwhile, clarified that the COA did not conduct a special audit report on PDAF for only the period of 2007 to 2009 just to spare other lawmakers. She said after the learning of the findings of the special audit report, she ordered state auditors to begin a more thorough look at PDAF in the regular audit being conducted annually starting 2010.
"Ang dami naming PDAF report per agency - 2011, 2012, 2013. Ang nakakagulat, we see practically the same names of those involved in 2007 to 2009," she said.
She also belied Estrada's claim that the COA violated the law by prematurely disclosing audit reports without hearing the side of the involved agency.