Baligod airs side on 'break-up' with Benhur
MANILA – Levito Baligod, former lawyer of pork barrel scam primary whistle-blower Benhur Luy, denied a report claiming he received money from lawmakers who allegedly pocketed pork barrel funds in exchange for not including them in future charges.
"Iyan ay mabigat na akusasyon at ako ay pinapasinungalingan ko iyan," Baligod told radio dzMM.
"Ako ay isang ordinaryong mamamayan ngunit handang ibuwis ang buhay pagkat yung mga bagay na iyan ang akusasyon nila. I am ready to die for my honor. So gusto ko ring makausap ang mga witnesses, kung sino ang nagsabi niyan, kung totoong sinabi nila. Sinuman ang nagsasabi niyan ay mahirap na palampasin," he added.
Baligod was reacting to a Daily Tribune report which quoted an anonymous source as saying that Baligod was bribed by administration allies implicated in the scam. The bribes were allegedly made to ensure that Luy will not link them to the scam.
Luy allegedly discovered the bribery and decided to drop Baligod as counsel.
The Tribune report also quoted the source as saying that Luy was under pressure from Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima not to implicate administration allies in his testimony.
Baligod belied this saying the complaint he filed last year before the DOJ in connection with the scam actually included allies of the Aquino administration.
He, however, admitted that not all of the names in the complaint have been charged due to lack of strong pieces of evidence.
He said the cases the DOJ filed so far were based on the 2007 to 2009 Commission on Audit (COA) reports, and Luy's personal knowledge and his records when he was still employee of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The scam allegedly saw some P10 billion in public funds coming from lawmakers being funneled to fake non-government organizations.
"Nung nakaraang taon pa lamang, Marso 2013, nung sinubmit ko ang complaint kay (DOJ) Secretary de Lima, ay pinangalanan ko na doon ang pwedeng kasuhan. Kaya lamang po, nilimita ang dapat makasuhan ngayon sa PDAF involving years 2007 to 2009. Hindi pa kasi pumupunta sa ibang mga panahon," he said.
"Ang nagpapasya kung sino ang dapat makasuhan ay ang DOJ. Hindi naman natin maiimpluwensyahan iyan dahil lahat ng nilalaman ng financial records ni Benhur ay tinurn over na natin sa DOJ."
Baligod said, as far he is concerned, there had been no attempts from the government to prevent the whistle-blowers from implicating administration allies.
"Wala po at in fairness, may dalawang pagkakataon na nag-meeting kami noon ni Sec. de Lima na tumawag diumano sa kanya ang pangulo at nang bumalik si Sec. de Lima sa meeting namin, inulit niya ang reminder ni President Aquino na kung mayroong kaalyado ay dapat isali," he said.
"Wala pong pressure kahit kanino man na kontrolin kami kung sino ang dapat kasuhan at kung sino ang hindi. Basta ang ginagawa namin noon, ay kung sino ang nasa financial records ni Benhur at kaya nilang suportahan na base on their knowledge ay personal na tumanggap ng kickback, yun ang aming sinalo."
Why no admin lawmakers in PDAF cases
Baligod attributed the absence of administration lawmakers in the pork barrel charges to the lack of evidence against them, saying those with strong testimonial and documentary evidence were prioritized first.
"May mga pagkakataon kasi noon na sinasabi ni Benhur na ang direct na ka-transaction ng legislator ay si Ginang Napoles at si Napoles ang nagbibigay derecho ng kickback, so di namin sinasali iyon, dahil wala silang personal knowledge. Although nakalagay sa record ni Benhur ang pangalan ng legislators," he said.
"Kaya mayroong pagkakataon talaga na hindi naisasali ang ibang mambabatas, dahil sa rason na iyon, iyung kulang ng personal knowledge."
Baligod added there are some cases that a lawmaker allied with the administration coursed their PDAF to non-Napoles NGOs.
"Wala po tayong ebidensya laban sa kanila. Wala po tayong whistleblowers sa mga ganon," he said.
Nonetheless, Baligod admitted that there are Aquino allies who had been included in his March 2013 complaint but have yet to be charged.
So far, the only Aquino allies charged over the scam is former Customs chief Ruffy Biazon and Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut.
Biazon, a Liberal Party member, was charged with malversation for allegedly pocketing P1.95 million in pork barrel funds during his term as Muntinlupa congressman.
The big names charged with plunder so far are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., all opposition figures.
No divided attention
Baligod also denied that he had been remiss in performing his job as Luy's counsel, saying he also had to deal with the other aspects of the case.
"Meron akong obligasyon na pangalagaan at palaksin ang ating kaso. Inihahahanda ko ang ibang witnesses na katulad ni Benhur sa ating kaso at para makapaghanda sa litigation sa Sandiganbayan kung sakaling i-file ng Ombudsman ang kaso," he said.
Baligod added that before focusing on other aspects of the case, he made sure that Luy was no longer exposed to any "legal risks."
Baligod also admitted that certain quarters from both the administration and opposition are trying to access the witnesses, but have so far failed to do so due to his involvement in the case.
"Parating ang eleksyon ng 2016. Naramdaman ko po na kahit sa oposisyon may attempts na i-access yung mga witnesses. Ganun din po malamang sa administrasyon na gusto nilang ma-access ang whistleblowers para mapangalagaan ang kanilang interes. Both sides of the political fence are interested in influencing to a certain degree itong mga whistle-blowers," he said.