Bong Revilla, Honasan to skip Senate probe on 'pork' scam

(Updated 3:50 p.m.) Despite being dragged into alleged anomalies involving pork barrel funds, Senators Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Gringo Honasan on Wednesday said they will not attend the Senate probe on the supposed misuse of these discretionary funds.

In a statement, Revilla said he will skip the inquiry out of "prudence," adding that he is also not a member of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which will conduct the investigation on Thursday.

He, however, said that he "fully supports the inquiry as all of the other investigations into the matter."

"Naniniwala ako na sa isang patas at objective na pagsusuri sa kontobersiya ay lalabas ang katotohanan. Those truly responsible should be held accountable and punished," Revilla said.

In a separate statement, Honasan said he decided not to attend the inquiry because the "Senate should focus more on the real issue rather than put on the spot the different personalities who are involved in the controversy."

Honasan also said he supports the Senate blue ribbon committee probe on the alleged pork barrel scam.

Last month, the Philippine Daily Inquirer identified Revilla and Honasan as among the five senators who allegedly allocated portions of their pork barrel funds to ghost projects worth P10 billion.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.and Jinggoy Estrada were also linked by the newspaper report to the alleged anomaly.

Revilla, Enrile and Estrada were also identified in a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report as among the lawmakers who supposedly received excess pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009.

Last week, Enrile said he is "ready to be investigated and prosecuted" in connection to alleged irregularities in the use of his pork barrel funds.

Public indignation over the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds has led to the largest protest under the Aquino administration, and has prompted President Benigno Aquino III to move for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the formal name of pork barrel funds received by lawmakers every year.

Jinggoy to attend

Estrada, meanwhile, said that he will attend the investigation, but did not say if he will subject himself to questioning.

"I will attend tomorrow's hearing and I will answer questions in the proper forum if ever I will be implicated," Estrada said in an interview.

Asked if the Senate is the proper venue for him to clear his name, Estrada said, "I don't know if this is the proper forum."

Marcos, for his part, said he has not yet made up his mind on whether or not to show up at the probe.

"I haven't decided yet on what to do... Let me just think about this first," Marcos said in a separate interview.

He also declined to state why he still has qualms about attending the congressional inquiry.

Chiz wants more witnesses

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, called on the Senate blue ribbon committee to invite more witnesses in the investigation.

He said he particularly wants the Senate panel to invite whistleblowers of the alleged anomaly, as well as past and incumbent officials of agencies which reportedly transferred pork barrel funds to bogus NGOs.

"We only hear and read about them from the news. It is time we hear it straight from these people," Escudero said in a separate interview.

He identified the National Agribusiness Corp (NABCOR),

Technology Resource Center (TRC), National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), Zamboanga del Norte Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) and the Philippine Forest Corp. (PhilForest) as among the list of entities that he would ask to be called before the committee.

So far, only COA officials have been identified as resource persons for the Senate probe. — KBK, GMA News

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