Press Release
September 9, 2013

Court case will automatically suspend from Congress
 lawmakers in NGO scam


      Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former multi-awarded RTC judge, said that under the Anti-Plunder Act, after preliminary investigation, if the prosecutor decides to file a case in court, lawmakers involved will be automatically suspended from the Congress.

      Santiago made her statement as keynote speaker at a national student conference on hotel and restaurant management attended by some 1,000 students from different schools in the country, held yesterday (September 9) at the SM Mall of Asia.

      In the same speech, Santiago said that although the budget allows public funds to be transferred to NGOs, pork barrel funds were released to phony NGOs, without compliance with the procedure provided by R.A. No. 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.

      Santiago explained the controversial question on whether pork is allowed for NGOs: "The funds from PDAF are ALWAYS released to implementing agencies and NEVER to an NGO. An implementing agency consists of a department, an agency, or a local government unit. The choice of NGO, if the law is followed, is subject to competitive bidding or negotiated procurement."

      Santiago said that once the report of the troika - consisting of the justice secretary, the Ombudsman, and the COA chair - are released, at least three senators will be recommended for preliminary investigation. If the prosecutor decides to file the case in court, then the judge would hold a bail hearing, to determine whether evidence of guilt is strong. If so, bail will be denied to the accused.

Legal proceedings

       Santiago said that if the prosecutor decides to file the case in court, the senator or representative who is accused of plunder will immediately be suspended from Congress, Under Republic Act No. 7086, also known as the Anti-Plunder Act of 1991, any public officer facing criminal prosecution that is pending in court, shall be suspended from office.

       "Once the case is filed in court, the first thing that the judge will do will be to conduct a so-called bail hearing to determine if the evidence is strong against the accused, in which case they will not be entitled to bail. If the evidence of guilt is strong, the accused lawmakers will have to stay in jail during the course of the trial," Santiago said.

       The law defines plunder as the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth in the total value of at least P75 million, committed both by the public officer and by any person who participated with him. Plunder is punished by life imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding any public office.

       Citing People v. Baguio, Santiago said that in the imposition of penalties, the degree of participation and attendance of mitigating and extenuating circumstances shall be considered by the court.

      "For example, if the accused is over 70 years old, his age would be considered a mitigating circumstance. In the case of a convict who is at least 70 years old, he can apply with President Aquino for pardon on the ground that his continued imprisonment would be inimical to his health. Otherwise, the penalty for life imprisonment does not appear to have any definite extent or duration," Santiago said.

Legal requirements for NGOs

       On the controversy whether pork barrel can be given to NGOs, Santiago said that the budget law allows public funds to be transferred to NGOs, but the procedure provided by law has been deliberately ignored, and therefore transfer of public funds to NGOs has been illegal.

       Santiago pointed out that the transfer of pork barrel funds to NGOs do not appear to follow the rules defined under R.A. No. 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.

      "More specifically, the transfer of funds appears to have failed to follow the rules under Resolution No. 12-2007 of the Government Procurement and Policy Board, which is now a provision of the implementing rules and regulations of the Government Procurement Reform Act," the senator said.

      Santiago also said that the NGOs have miserably failed to comply with the requirement that they should have an established track record of service delivery and should be financially stable.

      She said that it appears that there is no compliance with the rule requiring the submission of "audited financial statements for the past three years, stamped 'received' by the BIR, or its duly accredited and authorized institutions, for the immediately preceding current year, showing, among others, its total and current assets and liabilities."

      "Since the pork barrel is a special purpose fund, the General Provisions of the budget apply both to the special purpose funds and to the regular budgets of line departments. However, the General Provisions on the Limitations on Transfer of Funds to NGOs is intended to impose limitations. The essence of the law is to limit, and not to facilitate, the transfer of funds," Santiago said. Santiago also said that Janet Lim Napoles and her NGOs have failed to obey the conditions of the 2012 budget on the rules and use of funds.

      "The Napoles NGOs and similar syndicated criminal NGOs did not fully liquidate their earlier fund releases, before they availed of new fund transfers from pork barrel funds. It appears that, contrary to the budget requirement, the Senate Committee on Finance did not receive reports on the fund releases of the NGOs prepared by the government agency concerned, and duly audited by the COA. Under the budget requirement, it is the responsibility of the government agency head to require a COA audit," Santiago said.

      Santiago also said that in 2013, Congress amended a provision in the budget, allowing civil society organizations (CSOs) to receive subsequent fund transfers when earlier fund releases, if any, have been fully liquidated, and at least seventy percent (70%) of the latest fund transfer availed of by CSOs shall have been liquidated.

      "This provision weakened the compliance requirement, which used to call for full liquidation prior to future releases of funds. By introducing the amendment, certain crooks in Congress inserted a phrase that allowed fake NGOs to get more and more pork barrel funds without even liquidating all prior pork barrel funds that they had obtained," she said.

Character assassination

      Santiago also said that the online version of a popular newspaper carried a suspicious article last Friday (September 6) purporting to be news reports that, according to her, twisted the facts to make it appear that she is implicated in the pork barrel scam.

      The article was removed from the website the same day. "These stories which very obviously engage in character assassination against me can only be funded by my arch enemy. He is a man who has grown so old in government corruption that I believe he was a waiter during the Last Supper," Santiago said

      "I challenged him to a public debate, but instead, he has chosen to go underground by hiring media hacks to invent stories against me. I will not answer their cheap lies," the senator said.

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