MANILA (UPDATED) - As 3 members of President Aquino's Cabinet figure on Janet Lim Napoles' alleged list of pork barrel scam beneficiaries, a Palace official claims it's a "scrap of paper" and urges the public to wait for proof against those appearing on the list.
The list, which appears in Napoles' unsigned affidavit, tags Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva -- all former congressmen.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, "The President has always said, 'Kung may ebidensiya doon tayo.' But look at the... The list is there, what does it prove? And given the affidavit, which is unsigned, how do we proceed with that... In law kasi, ang tawag namin diyan sa unsigned affidavit, it's a mere scrap of paper e."
"That's the reason why you have to have a name signed. You have the name swore to because you're now saying 'I am RG Cruz, I'm willing to sign by this statement. I'm ready to face those who are going to question me.' And that's the kind...That's the start of the investigation proper. The President has always said that we will see... Alam mo ang sabi niya, kung lahat naman ng naa-accuse e let's say kung may mga Cabinet members, lahat ia-accuse, wala namang ebidensiya, di pag tinanggal ito, mawawalan ako ng tao," Lacierda added.
"But how does one answer allegations in an affidavit which is unsigned, which has not been sworn to? We have not yet even seen the affidavit signed, the signed affidavit. All that is flowing out right now are several versions of the list. Yesterday, media was very -- was putting out snippits of an affidavit which used to be unsigned. But accusations are not proof. We have seen in the criminal process, he who alleges...and all know this, he who alleges must prove the same. Who is proving what? Ms. Napoles has not yet signed whatever affidavit there was," he said.
He maintained government is waiting for Napoles' affidavit.
"The President has already mentioned also in Myanmar that there appears to be confusion in the list. You got one of two lists and some names appear in this list, some names appear in the other list. Does it lead to clarity on the whole issue? Who will do the clarification and for that particular reason, we're waiting for the affidavit of Mrs. Napoles from which the sworn affidavit will now be evaluated by the Department of Justice (DOJ)."
Lacierda also refused to pass judgment on the release of the list. "We make no judgment on Secretary Lacson. He has a copy of the list but all I'm saying, at the end of the day, the DOJ will have to evaluate whichever affidavit is going to be signed by Mrs. Napoles and whichever list is going to be submitted by Mrs. Napoles."
He maintained there will be no whitewash of the pork barrel scam investigation to save allies of the President.
In Myanmar, Aquino himself said Napoles' affidavit remains a work in progress.
Lacierda issued a clarification from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima regarding this.
"It's really a work in progress. Yes, there's already an initial affidavit, signed and notarized by Ms. Napoles, submitted to SOJ yesterday. But the same covers only the lawmakers (3 senators and 5 former congressmen) in the 1st batch of PDAF cases already filed, and the Malampaya Fund. We're awaiting the completion of the more extended affidavit which expectedly covers the entire list. It's not DOJ/NBI which is preparing it but Napoles herself, as assisted by her counsels. The President's instruction is for DOJ/NBI to vet/evaluate her allegations and, as always, to proceed where the evidence would lead us," he said.
Lacierda also emphasized that Napoles’ affidavit contains her own words.
"So just to be clear, the affidavit is being drafted by Mrs. Napoles, not the government. So that clearly answers the question: are we whitewashing the... I remember RG you’re the one who asked us: Are we going to whitewash it? No, because it is not us… It is not government who’s drafting the affidavit of Mrs. Napoles."
Lacierda added that Napoles’ affidavit is being vetted to prevent any whitewash.
"That’s where the evaluation process comes in. As in any affidavit filed before any government prosecutor, it is the duty of the prosecutor to look into it. It's like any other criminal investigation. And again, let me say that after this process is done, it now goes to the Ombudsman assuming a case is warranted to be filed—rather a complaint is warranted to be filed before the Ombudsman,” he said.
The administration has been under fire for allegedly using the pork barrel scam to destroy the political careers of those not allied with the administration.
The Palace, meanwhile, gave no indications that Cabinet members tagged in the scam are going anywhere, anytime soon.
Lacierda maintained that there is no conflict of interest in keeping Abad in office.
As budget secretary, Lacierda said Abad oversees the disbursement of government funds.
"No, because there are no PDAF projects anymore. It’s already— the fund that was originally intended for PDAF had been assigned already to the different agencies. So do you talk to Secretary Butch Abad? No, you talk to the agencies. It’s been placed in health, it’s been placed in education, I think. So these are no longer with the DBM to talk to, wala ng SARO—wala ng DBM… Wala ng PDAF… And si Speaker Belmonte, they already mentioned, in fact, aligned those amounts to the different departments — several Cabinet agencies," Lacierda said.