MANILA - A battle appears to be raging over lists purportedly prepared by Janet Lim-Napoles containing the names of several lawmakers – including allies of the administration – linked to the pork barrel scam.
But Malacañang said it was unfazed by the confusion spawned by the release of several copies of the list that was supposedly part of the sworn affidavit handed to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima by Napoles in her hospital room last Monday.
As far as the Palace is concerned, “nobody else has the affidavit” except De Lima.
“It’s Secretary Leila de Lima who is in possession of the affidavit of Napoles and until such time that the affidavit is made public then it is, at best, speculation on the part of whoever wants to make (this) allegation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB.
Amid the confusion sparked by the release of at least three lists, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was named “pork king” in a report citing Napoles as source.
It was reportedly Abad who had taught Napoles how to manipulate the lawmakers’ pork barrel, officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Abad at first refused to comment on the accusation, but later issued a denial. He said he had not yet seen the affidavit in De Lima’s possession.
Aside from being budget chief, Abad is one of the stalwarts and political strategists of the Liberal Party led by President Aquino.
Another version of the supposed affidavit said former officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Agriculture along with 10, 12 or 19 senators and more than a hundred congressmen were involved in the scam. The figures vary, depending on who is talking.
De Lima said she would reveal the contents of the list in her possession at the proper time and warned that the release of the other lists could sow confusion and even chaos.
Lacson versus Miriam
Valte said they were not taking it against Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson for divulging part of the contents of a draft affidavit allegedly from Napoles and expressed belief this would not distract him from his task as rehabilitation czar.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda seemed to have distanced the Palace from Lacson’s pronouncements while declaring that everything would be evaluated.
Lacierda noted that Lacson himself had emphasized that his copy of the Napoles affidavit was a draft and was unsigned.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago accused Lacson of protecting one of the pork scam suspects, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, by saying he got his own Napoles list.
Santiago also alleged that Napoles could be used to destabilize the administration.
Lacson said it would not be sane for him to help Enrile get away from the pork barrel scam as he only wanted a fight against corruption that would spare no one.
This came as the administration was accused of withholding information and possibly sanitizing Napoles’ list to protect its allies.
“When it comes to Secretary Lacson, he said that he actually eats Yolanda for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. It’s all Yolanda that he is attending to and perhaps, there has been an extra (concern) because of this issue. At this point, we really don’t see it as an interference in what Secretary Lacson is doing as rehab czar,” Valte said.
Lacson had said he would not release the list in his possession and that Napoles’ affidavit was in good hands because it was given to De Lima.
Valte said the people may talk to De Lima about the affidavit, while Lacson dared those worried about being linked to the scam to ask Napoles or themselves about their involvement.
Valte added she was not aware if the President had spoken with Abad about the issue or if he had been bothered at all by the alleged disinformation and destabilization attempts as claimed by Santiago.
“I know that they have seen each other in the past week but for other matters,” Valte said, referring to Aquino and Abad.
“You know we have no insight on the motivation of whoever is trying to link member... at least, particularly, Secretary Abad, to supposedly being the mentor of Janet Napoles,” Valte said.
Perhaps it would be better for Santiago to be the one to speak about those matters because she was the one who got the information, Valte said.
Valte also declined to comment on the possibility of a constitutional crisis if many or most of the lawmakers are implicated in the scam.
For a senior administration lawmaker, the affidavit issued by Napoles could turn into a legal minefield for both the prosecution and lawyers of the others accused in the alleged pork barrel fund scam.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, a lawyer, said the best thing for De Lima to do is to disclose to the public Napoles’ confession and let those named in her statement disprove the allegations.
“The affidavit must be taken as a whole,” Barzaga said.
“What happens if Secretary De Lima will say this part of the affidavit is not accurate and that part is true? She is not the only one who can say that and what would be her basis? And the defense lawyers of the accused will say then that the evidence is already doubtful and even untruthful under the principle that if one part is false then the entire thing is also false,” he said.
He said that since the purported confession is already in the open with new names reportedly mentioned, De Lima should disclose the details of their five-hour conversation and let both the lawyers of Napoles and the other accused deny or confirm the list.
“The need to disclose to the public the contents or what Napoles told Secretary De Lima far outweighs the need to validate the claims; after all, both sides will make an effort and come out with evidence to prove or disprove the allegations,” he said.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III also called on De Lima to release the affidavit of Napoles right away, as it is and without any preconditions.
Osmeña, vice chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said the statements provided by Napoles should be treated as her confession and should be immediately disclosed.
“They should give us a copy and let us analyze this. If a witness has confessed then her statement is already complete. Wag mo na i-doctor, i-cover up o i-sanitize (Don’t have it doctored, covered up or sanitized),” Osmeña said over dwIZ.
Osmeña’s colleagues have also been calling on De Lima to divulge the contents of the affidavit to the public, with Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano saying it’s the only way to end speculation as well as the anguish of those unfairly linked to the scam.
“The Cabinet owes it to us, especially to their allies in the Senate, to be forthright. Reveal what you know and who are in the list,” Cayetano said.
“Every day that they do not release the list, names could be added or removed. Eventually when this is released, some will say that the names of the allies were removed and those in the opposition were added,” he said.
For Senate President Franklin Drilon, the release of the list should be supported by documentary evidence.
Both Cayetano and Drilon have been reported as being part of Napoles’ list, although nothing official has come out yet regarding the matter.
Osmeña said he believes Napoles just wants to make a deal with the government so that she could either become a state witness or be granted some leniency in her case.
“So I don’t know why they are hiding the list. She is a witness so that cannot be sanitized. That is the statement of Napoles,” Osmeña said.
“Whether there is evidence or not, bring out the list and then demand the supporting documents and evidence later on,” he added.
Osmeña also said that there is no need to have Napoles narrate the contents of the list in a public hearing.
He said De Lima should just provide the committee with her list and then the committee would ask Napoles if she is interested in clarifying her statements in a public hearing. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy