MANILA - Senator Grace Poe is urging the Department of Justice to conduct a lifestyle and background check on government officials applying for the witness protection program to uphold the credibility of the institution.
This, as Poe expressed reservations on accepting Technology Resource Center head Dennis Cunanan into the WPP in light of his role in the pork barrel scam.
Cunanan has claimed he did not receive any kickbacks from the scam and that he only facilitated the transactions due to pressure from lawmakers.
Poe, however, pointed out that Cunanan has been in the TRC since 2004 and that his responsibility is much higher than the other witnesses.
"I'm sure he knows what's legal and illegal. Before we accept certain state witnesses from government officials, let's ask for their [statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.] Let's do a lifestyle check. He said he didn't benefit financially from this. So I would like to think he is telling the truth...At the very least, if we take him into witness protection, number 1 he has to return whatever he may have benefited from, financially," she said.
The senator said that if Cunanan is accepted into the witness protection program, he should no longer be allowed to work in any government position "or even in a private institution where he will have to deal with government contracts."
"Those were his responsibility, primarily to prevent things like that from happening," she said.
Poe said she understands Cunanan's reasoning that he allegedly gave in to pressure from senators to release their priority development assistance funds "because he was afraid to lose his job."
However, she said it is important to look at the character of possible state witnesses who used to be in government.
Cunanan, Director General of the Technology Resource Center (TRC), earlier executed a 36-page affidavit with the Office of the Ombudsman, directly implicating co-respondents Sen. Bong Revilla and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to the scam, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, allegedly through his former chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes, in the pork barrel scam.
Cunanan was Deputy Director General of the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), now TRC, from 2004 up to 2010. The charges against the three senators covered their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations for 2007 to 2009, based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Cunanan claims that Revilla, Estrada, and Enrille channeled portions of the their PDAF specifically to non-government organizations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
Cunanan claimed he was even "pressured" and "admonished" by Revilla and Estrada via phone to release the funds for the Napoles NGO's. This allegedly took place when he would call their offices in the Senate to confirm the endorsement letters and signatures.
"Both Senators Revilla and Estrada insisted that the TRC should honor their choice of the NGO, which they selected to implement the projects, since the projects were funded from their PDAF. They both asked me to ensure that TRC would immediately act on and approve their respective projects.
"I was certain I was talking to said Senators because I recognized their respective voices, which I am familiar with since they were both actors and public personalities whose voices I have frequently heard and I am very familiar with," Cunanan said on page 5 of his affidavit.