MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to retrieve from Janet Lim-Napoles what the businesswoman claimed were documents proving the involvement of lawmakers and officials she has implicated in the pork barrel scam.
“NBI is now trying to get the documents from her, as part of the ongoing vetting or fact-finding process into the veracity of her allegations in the two affidavits,” De Lima said in a text message.
The retrieval of the documents is part of preparations for the filing of the third batch of criminal cases against those linked to the multibillion-peso embezzling of lawmakers’ pork barrel, officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Napoles’ lawyer Bruce Rivera confirmed that investigators have officially asked them to submit copies of documents, including vouchers of transactions with lawmakers and officials that the detained businesswoman was able to keep.
“We were told about it (request to submit documents) just today and I will first inform Mrs. Napoles about it. As we all know, she’s already in Fort Sto. Domingo so I still have to personally go there,” Rivera said.
Napoles was brought back to her detention cell at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna last Thursday from the Ospital ng Makati where she was confined for two months after an operation to remove a cyst in her uterus.
A Makati court handling the serious illegal detention case filed against her by pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy junked her bid to stay longer in hospital.
Rivera reiterated that they have evidence to prove their allegations against all lawmakers and officials named in Napoles’ two affidavits submitted to the DOJ last month.
In her expanded affidavit submitted to the DOJ last May 26, Napoles tagged 18 senators in the pork barrel scam. Ten of them are incumbent: Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gringo Honasan, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Aquilino Pimentel III, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III and Cynthia Villar.
The eight others in the list are former senators: the late Robert Barbers, Rodolfo Biazon, Loi Ejercito, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Tessie Aquino Oreta, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Manuel Villar.
Napoles also tagged Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as the one who taught her how to use bogus non-government organizations to siphon off government funds, when he was still representative of Batanes.
She also implicated Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director-general Joel Villanueva in the scam.
De Lima refused to reveal which officials or lawmakers would be named in the third batch of cases or when such cases would be filed.
De Lima also appeared lukewarm on calls for lifestyle checks on officials named by Napoles, stressing that her focus is on validating the businesswoman’s claims.
“Insofar as the DOJ/NBI is concerned, our focus now in this whole PDAF/Napoles issue is the vetting and verification of the truthfulness and veracity of Mrs. Napoles’ allegation in her two affidavits. We want such process to be as factual, objective and thorough as possible in our search for the truth,” De Lima added.
She also stressed that it’s still too early for her to decide on Napoles’ plea that her children James Christopher and Jo Christine be spared from prosecution. “It is still premature to respond to that,” she said.
James Christopher and Jo Christine allegedly forged the signatures of ghost beneficiaries of the P900-million Malampaya Fund.
Napoles’ other daughter Jeanne is facing tax evasion complaint with the DOJ after her extravagant lifestyle was bared on social media.
Summon De Lima
Meanwhile, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco asked the House of Representatives yesterday to summon De Lima and Napoles and make them explain discrepancies in information related to the PDAF scam.
“Once and for all, let’s settle all issues surrounding the PDAF scam,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco’s request was contained in House Resolution No. 1181. He said Luy and Rivera should also be made to clear things up before Congress.
He said Napoles’ former employee turned whistle-blower Merlina Suñas had confirmed Abad’s alleged key role in the PDAF scam.
“Suñas’ affidavit directly corroborates Napoles’ written account that Abad mentored on how to smoothly glide through the billion-peso PDAF of lawmakers, and profit from it,” Tiangco said.
He said the emergence of several versions of the so-called Napoles’ list as well as the release of the digital files of Luy have only muddled the issue.
“Atty. Bruce Rivera, in some of his media interviews, categorically mentioned that there were some errors and omissions in the affidavit submitted by Mrs. Napoles, causing confusion and casting doubts on the true participation and/or involvement of lawmakers, executive officials, the members of their staff and their agents,” Tiangco said in his resolution.
“The anomalies in the disbursement of the PDAF could have possibly resulted in the loss of confidence of the Filipino people in the government, particularly the House of Representatives and Senate of the Philippines; thereby affecting political and economic stability,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco said that if the administration is really serious in its campaign to rid the government of misfits, it must take concrete steps in making erring officials, including administration allies, account for their wrongdoing.
Deputy Majority Leader and Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, for his part, proposed that President Aquino form a truth commission as provided for in Article VII Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution to investigate the pork barrel scam.
“In creating a Truth Commission relating to the utilization of funds released through the pork barrel system, there will be no violation of equal protection clause because the focus is on how the funds channeled through the pork barrel system were utilized, involving all legislators who used their allocations, regardless of their political party affiliations, terms and all other possible classifications,” Tugna said. – Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano