No Senate probe on pork barrel scam for now

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2013 07:55 PM | Updated as of Aug 06 2013 03:55 AM

MANILA - Senators decided on Monday not to investigate a scam involving billions of pesos from some lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel that allegedly went to fake non-government organizations.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Blue Ribbon committee, made the announcement after a closed-door meeting with his fellow senators, where a consensus on the matter was reportedly reached.

"The issue as to whether to investigate it or not will be postponed until the present investigative agencies have finished their investigations," he told reporters, referring to the Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, Commission on Audit, and the Office of the Ombudsman.

"Once these agencies have come out with their investigative report, we will convene again and decide as to whether or not the Senate will pursue and investigate the Napoles case," Guingona said.

Aside from avoiding conflict of interest in investigating their colleagues, senators also did not want to preempt the investigation of other government agencies into the matter, he said.

Five senators--Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan II, Ferdinand Marcos Jr,., and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.--were implicated in the so-called pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles of JLN Corp.

Following the expose, there has been growing public clamor to abolish the pork barrel, which amounts to P200 million yearly for each senator and P70 million for each congressman.

Some lawmakers themselves have supported calls to scrap it from the national budget.

That is not about to happen anytime soon, however.

Guingona said there was no talk about abolishing the pork barrel during their meeting on Monday.

Instead, they agreed to let the finance committee, chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero, hold hearings on how to make the pork barrel system more transparent and accountable.

"The talk was more about reforming [the system]," he said.