MANILA – If she had her way, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said representatives and chiefs of staff of lawmakers should shed light on the alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim Napoles.
Speaking to radio dzMM, de Lima said she does not expect Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, to tell all when she appears before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on November 7.
She said she expects Napoles to testify only when the case reaches the Sandiganbayan.
“If she tells all, mai-incriminate ang sarili niya. No right thinking lawyer would advise their client to do that, na walang assurance of immunity,” she said.
De Lima said representatives and chiefs of staff of the implicated lawmakers could give more pertinent information on the pork barrel scam.
“Sa tingin ko po, they are key if they are willing to talk. Wag na muna nating isipin si Mrs. Napoles dahil alam naman po natin na si Mrs. Napoles ay central figure ng lahat ng ito. If she will tell everything, then fine that’s a bonus I think but right now I am not open to considering Mrs. Napoles at this point as perhaps a state witness pero pwede tayo maghanap sa iba, other players, personalities like itong mga chiefs of staff,” she said.
She cited the case of Ruby Chan Tuason, former social secretary of former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who has also been linked to the pork barrel scam.
The justice chief noted Tuason has been linked to both the pork barrel scam as well as the Malampaya fund scam. Tuason is accused of getting P242.775 million in kickbacks "received through bank withdrawals for a still unidentified principal."
Whistle-blowers have also identified Tuason as the one who allegedly received kickbacks for Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Remember Ruby Tuason, hindi lang siya implicated sa PDAF pero pati sa Malampaya. Merong unknown principal pa siya. May mga leads na ang [National Bureau of Investigation] on who is the principal or principals in the Malamapaya fund scam. Kung tatanungin niyo kami kung sigurado na kami, hindi pa po although in the PDAF case alam po namin kung sino po yung alleged principal niya,” de Lima said.
She said the NBI is still verifying their information from independent sources.
Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo earlier denied any link to the Malampaya fund scam, noting that Tuason is the estranged wife of his late cousin Carlos "Butch" Tuason. He denied having any dealings with Ruby.
Cambe, Reyes as witnesses?
Aside from Tuason, de Lima said other chiefs of staff or representatives could give vital information in the investigation such as Gigi Reyes, the former chief aide of Senator Enrile, and Richard Cambe; chief political adviser to Sen. Bong Revilla Jr.
Tuason, Reyes, Cambe and their bosses are among 38 people facing graft, plunder, malversation and bribery charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged roles in the scam.
De Lima said she requested the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the passports of 37 of the accused to pressure them to cooperate in the investigation.
At least 4 of the accused including Reyes have already left the country before the filing of the charges and have not returned.
The justice chief also questioned moves to grant immunity to Napoles, saying such a move must comply with the government witness protection program.