Senate panel to invite Napoles to probe

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MANILA -- Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind a P10-billion "pork barrel" scam, will be invited to the Senate probe into the matter, Senator Teofisto Guingona III said Thursday.

 

Napoles turned herself in to President Aquino Wednesday night.

Guingona, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee conducting the probe on the supposed scam, said Napoles' testimony will be "very helpful" in establishing if some senators indeed pocketed pork barrel funds.

"At this point, we can't say that for certain, until may ebidensya na binulsa ng legislators. We have to wait for the investigation to finish. We have to call other witnesses, especially other whistleblowers and Napoles," Guingona said at a press briefing after the Senate probe on Thursday morning.

He added that he plans to coordinate with the appropriate government agencies to make sure that Napoles will show up at the Senate probe. He did not specify when Napoles will be invited to the investigation.

During Thursday's inquiry, Commission on Audit chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan said four  senators had channeled over P1 billion of their pork barrel funds to seven non-government organizations linked with Napoles from 2007 to 2009.

According to the COA chief, these lawmakers were Senators Bong Revilla Jr. (P483.49 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P332.7 million), Jinggoy Estrada (P262.575 million) and Gringo Honasan (P14.55 million).

Guingona, however, said that right now, he does not see the need to compel his fellow lawmakers to answer the COA findings.

"The senators have already inhibited themselves. I will respect that," he said.

He added that his colleagues are welcome to answer the accusations against them in the next hearings.

Enrile, Honasan and Revilla were all absent during Thursday's probe. Estrada initially attended, but asked to be excused.