MANILA - Efforts could be underway to destroy the credibility of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and spoil her tell-all testimony on the controversial multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, her lawyer said yesterday.
Bruce Rivera believes that the reported scam involving the P407-million computerization project of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in 2002 being linked to Napoles might be part of these efforts.
“I think it’s part of moves to destroy her credibility,” Rivera, also spokesman of Napoles, told The STAR.
Rivera warned that the new accusations against his client could also be part of attempts to divert attention from the pork barrel scam after Napoles agreed to reveal everything she knows on the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
Rivera said their camp would not comment on the new controversy for the meantime, saying any reaction could be part of Napoles’ sworn statement being completed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The focus of the affidavit now is the PDAF so that (DOTC scam) could be a shift from the focus – if not totally muddling it,” he stressed.
The lawyer pointed out that it was the same newspaper that came out with a “selective report” on the PDAF scam that implicated only three senators when there were actually more senators involved, based on the tell-all affidavit of Napoles.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima already said the DOJ would look into the latest allegation against Napoles reported by a major newspaper.
De Lima said the alleged DOTC scam was not touched by the initial affidavit given by Napoles that only covered the PDAF scam.
Rivera earlier denied the veracity of supposed lists of personalities in the pork barrel scam submitted by Napoles to the DOJ that came out in the media.
He said the false list could be part of efforts to muddle the issue and destroy the credibility of Napoles.
“That’s obviously black propaganda. There are several persons in that report who are not really in the list submitted to the DOJ,” he said.
“Once the actual list is released and there will be difference to this reported list, the credibility of the testimony will be put to question because people will say it’s sanitized. That will be unfair,” the lawyer lamented.
Rivera reiterated that it is best to avoid speculation and just wait for DOJ’s release of Napoles’ affidavit.
Asked if his client’s affidavit would prove that the earlier testimonies of whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy were indeed selective and sanitized, the lawyer said they would presently reserve comment.
De Lima confirmed earlier that there are more names tagged by Napoles in her account of the PDAF scam. She refused to reveal details, however, pending validation.
She only hinted that Napoles’ account has been consistent so far with the information provided by Luy and the other whistle-blowers.
Rivera confirmed that agents of the National Bureau of Investigation have returned twice to the Ospital ng Makati for clarificatory interviews with Napoles since her surgery last week.
He said Napoles was unable to attend to the agents upon advice of her doctors due to speech problems resulting from the operation.
But the lawyer revealed that the consistency of Napoles’ statement with that of the whistle-blowers was “generally established – except for a few minute details.”
“They were also able to secure documentary evidence in support of Mrs. Napoles’ affidavit,” he stressed.
“The list remains intact. As far as we’re concerned, no name was removed or added,” Rivera added.
To expedite the completion of the affidavit and validation by NBI amid mounting pressure for the release of the list of lawmakers involved, De Lima said one of the options is to just let Napoles complete her testimony in writing.
Napoles’ camp earlier confirmed that a draft, or incomplete affidavit, was given to former senator and now rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson. The complete affidavit was submitted to De Lima.
Lacson earlier hinted there were at least 12 senators named by Napoles in the incomplete and unsigned affidavit. This means there could be more in the DOJ list.
Senator Bam Aquino said the ball is now in the hands of the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the next moves on the pork barrel scam case.
Aquino, who attended last Wednesday night the Bangus Festival’s Kalutan ed Dalan street party in Dagupan City, said that since the report of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that probed the PDAF scam has been submitted to the ombudsman, this means the Senate investigation has been closed, at least temporarily.
He said he hopes that the ombudsman will sustain advocacy efforts in line with President Aquino’s daang matuwid to combat corruption.
“Whether the ombudsman will continue the investigation or if there is a need to file case, we don’t know yet,” he said.
Aquino added that he is uncertain what will happen on May 5 when Senate resumes session, if it will reopen the probe because of new information given by other witnesses.
“Whoever is involved here must be held liable, how many of them, how many are senators, how many are congressmen, government officials, must be made accountable because you know it makes one angry, considering the huge amount of public funds involved,” Aquino said.
He mentioned as an example his office whose thrust partly is to help micro and small entrepreneurs that need thousands of pesos in assistance.
Asked if De Lima should now name names, Aquino said, “I think she is verifying the list given her by Napoles versus the ones earlier mentioned by whistle- blowers.”
He said early witnesses like Luy who had risked their lives had divulged vital information, then came the testimonies of Ruby Tuason, Dennis Cunanan and Napoles herself.
Aquino said he believes it is proper that there be scrutiny of testimonies provided by Napoles in her tell-all affidavit. With Eva Visperas