Jinggoy's camp called up COA chief before report's public release

MANILA - Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Grace Pulido Tan on Thursday said she sometimes takes pity on embattled Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who has been tagged in the pork barrel scam, for being misinformed.

In an interview on ANC Prime Time, Tan debunked several allegations made by Estrada in his privilege speech Wednesday.

She said that as mentioned by the senator himself in his speech, the COA special report on pork barrel funds did not single out Estrada and two other minority senators, Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla, Jr.

"Siya mismo nagpatunay na hindi lang silang 3. May mga binasa siyang pangalan from the report," Tan said.

She said some lawmakers in the COA report are known allies of the Aquino administration.

"They were all in the report. He referred to them. His basis was our COA report. Ibig sabihin, naniniwala lang siya sa aming COA report. Hindi selective," she added.

Tan, however, said Estrada slanted the COA report in his privilege speech, but did not mention anything about irregularities in his own Priority Development Assistance Fund.

"He did not complain about the charges that have been filed against him or the results of the audit that we have had with respect to the use of his own PDAF," she said.

"I am glad he did not make any reklamo about our audit findings (on his PDAF). That's a vindication for us that we did right," she added.

Not all 82 NGOs bogus

Tan said at least 15 senators were mentioned in the COA report but not all of the 82 non-government organizations named were spurious.

"Of the 82 NGOs we found to which PDAF allocations were downloaded, not all of them are questionable," she said. "We said so in the report. We were very careful with that."

She also frowned at Estrada's allegation that 100 "unidentified" lawmakers were in the report.

"If they are unidentified, you cannot even say 100 unidentified," she said, explaining how some lawmakers are not named in government Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs).

While preparing the report, Tan said the COA got data from other sources, including its own records and from other agencies aside from the Department of Budget and Management.

The COA special report on the PDAF was started before Tan's term.

"It was completed in July 2012, then we went through vetting process, getting all the comments of agencies involved, confirmation of legislators," she said.

She said the COA failed to get confirmation from Estrada on documents that had his name and signature.

"Hindi namin alam, pero pinadalhan namin (siya ng sulat). Noong nag-aaudit kami ng mga ahensiya, lumalabas ang pangalan niya, lumabas ang mga dokumento na may pirma niya," she said.

"We collated all of that, sumulat po kami sa kaniya. That's a standard procedure of audit," Tan added.

"Ang mga papeles na ito, nai-turn over na namin sa Ombudsman at sa DOJ. Wala siyang sagot," she said.

Tan said when media broke the stories on whistleblower Benhur Luy and on Janet Lim Napoles, the COA had already finished its report.

She said the names of the whistleblowers, as well as the bogus NGOs, were in the COA report.

"It shows that (the COA report) is not a figment of imagination. Itong mga papeles na nakalap namin, tunay," she said.

Jinggoy 'misinformed'

"Iyung sinasabi ni Senator Jinggoy na may premature disclosure, mali na naman iyon," she said.

"Sometimes, parang naaawa naman ako na parang he was so misinformed, kung sino man iyung nagbigay sa kaniya ng mga information na iyon," she added.

She said that before the press conference on the COA report, it was already released to agencies. "Napadalhan na namin ang DPWH, DBM."

She said a day after its hard copy release, the report was uploaded on the COA website. "Lahat ng reports namin, inuupload sa website, for the people to know."

Tan said she also got a phone call from Estrada's camp before the report's release to media.

"Noong araw na iyon na magpe-presscon kami, someone called in behalf, or to relay a request of Senator Jinggoy to me, sabi 'alam ni Senator Jinggoy na magpe-presscon kayo mamaya. Ang pakiusap niya, kung pwede huwag na muna daw banggitin ang pangalan niya.'"

"Ang sabi ko, 'Oho, hindi ho talaga ako magbabanggit ng pangalan,'" she said.

Tan said she gets similar calls every now and then.

During his speech, Estrada criticized Tan for her trips abroad.

Tan, in reply, said the frequency of her travels depend on official business. "I just have to be ready for the occasion."

She said she doesn't have any ill will against Estrada for mentioning her overseas trips.

"It's his prerogative, but I don't think it is helping him any," Tan said.