MANILA - Some staff members of senators tagged in the pork scam have taken a leave of absence.
They include Richard Cambe, chief political officer of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr.; Pauline Labayen and Rene Dinglasan, deputy chief of staff and political adviser, respectively, of Senator Jinggoy Estrada; and Jose Antonio Evangelista, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s deputy chief of staff.
Their names have been included in the affidavits submitted by the whistleblowers before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The senior staff members allegedly served as conduits for transferring the pork funds of the senators to bogus non-government organizations supposedly owned by Janet Lim Napoles. Their signatures were supposedly in several documents.
Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff, is reportedly abroad. She resigned at the height of the word war between Enrile and several other senators over the use of Senate funds. Reyes submitted an irrevocable resignation.
During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee last week, officials of the subsidiaries of the Department of Agriculture named the three senators as having directly endorsed Napoles’ NGOs.
One of them, former National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) vice-president for administration and finance Rhodora Mendoza, said she was “very sure” that the three senators and several other congressmen gave their endorsements to the NGOs, then represented by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Luy would later point to Napoles as having started the pork scam to siphon lawmakers’ pork barrel to ghost projects.
NABCOR is one of two Department of Agriculture (DA) subsidiaries that the Commission of Audit (COA) found to have had relations with supposedly bogus NGOs.
Estrada won't comment anymore, saying they he has already been judged guilty of the crime before the public.
Revilla, on the other hand, said he will disclose what he knows when everything has been put out in the open.
The hearing will continue on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. Several of those invited are Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and officials of the Department of Budget and Management. - with reports from Ruby Tayag, dzMM