MANILA - The tell-all account of Janet Lim-Napoles on the pork barrel fund scam seemed to have passed the initial test of credibility, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima hinted yesterday.
De Lima said initial validation of Napoles’ sworn statement in relation to the earlier statements of the whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy did not show any inconsistency.
“At this point, there is no conflict so far. Part of Mrs. Napoles’ account is what we already know from Benhur Luy et al,” she said.
In fact, Napoles has provided information that Luy has not given in earlier investigation, De Lima said.
She believes the new information were what Luy had described as “direct transactions” made by lawmakers with Napoles.
“Mrs. Napoles knows more information than Benhur,” De Lima stressed.
And to bolster her tell-all testimony, Napoles has provided documentary proof to back up her claims.
Luy earlier said Napoles had shredded the documents that would have supported his testimony.
But De Lima revealed some of the documents have been salvaged.
“She showed us some samples of documents that she was able to preserve,” De Lima said.
De Lima said the new details and names provided by Napoles are what the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is currently validating.
She said NBI agents would still schedule several more sessions with Napoles to clarify some details.
De Lima also assured the public that Napoles’ statements would not affect the third batch of complaints that the NBI is set to file probably this week.
Once Napoles’ affidavit is validated, De Lima said the government could file a fourth batch of complaints.
De Lima also gave assurance the whistle-blowers will not be sidelined in these possible cases: “Benhur and the others will be useful in the validation of facts and information. We need them in the verification process itself,” she said.
There were calls from lawmakers and other sectors for the DOJ to make public Napoles’ affidavit, particularly on the list of lawmakers and other personalities she tagged.
De Lima however reiterated the DOJ needs more time.
“I will appeal to them to please be patient as we complete the validation process. We are exerting the best efforts to complete it as soon as possible,” she said.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, however, wanted the Blue Ribbon committee to subpoena Napoles if not her list.
Osmeña even challenged his colleagues to put the issue to a vote to allow the Senate to decide to summon Napoles back.
Osmeña said the Senate usually allows the chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee to decide unless there is an urgent issue that needs to be voted upon.
Osmeña said he will ask Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III to call for a caucus once Congress resumes session on May 5.
He said Guingona could discuss the issue with De Lima and hand over the Napoles list to the Senate. If not, then the Senate panel can just summon Napoles’ affidavit.
Osmeña said he wanted to determine the accuracy of Napoles’ list.
He also slammed De Lima for saying there is a need to review Napoles’ affidavit to verify the names in the list.
“It is not in their power to correct it, to amend it. It is her statement, that’s it,” Osmeña said.
Osmeña also raised his concern on why Malacañang has decided to call for an investigation of the alleged fund misuse of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), when the ones involved included no less than Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
“Up to now, there is no report. It has been one and a half months,” he said.
Just like the pork barrel fund misuse by some lawmakers, it was the Commission on Audit (COA) that unearthed the P515-million pork barrel scam.
Two lawmakers, namely Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan, and 38 former and incumbent congressmen allocated more than P514 million to the NCMF in 2012.
The funds ended up in 18 foundations and non-government organizations, some of which were identified with Napoles. – With Christina Mendez