MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III turned the tables on Senator Jinggoy Estrada after the lawmaker questioned his links to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Aquino's relationship with Napoles was recently raised by Estrada, who noted that Napoles wrote the President a letter last year.
Aquino on Thursday showed the media the letter, dated April 17, 2013.
"Ito, ano, basically sinasabi niya inosente siya. Matinong negosyante sila for the past 29 years. Inaapi sila ng NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). 'Yon ang gist nito," he said.
He said he gave the letter, which he called "self-serving," to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The President then turned the tables on Estrada and his family, noting that the name of a retired general was mentioned in the letter.
The general, identified as Rodolfo Diaz, was the head of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the term of Estrada's father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada.
"'Yung sa fourth paragraph, baka dapat tanungin natin si Senator Jinggoy, ano. Kasi ang nakalagay dito 'yung fourth paragraph and I'll just quote from the letter: 'Thereafter, Atty. Levito Baligod, lawyer of the Luy family, together with the retired General Rodolfo Diaz demanded the amount of 38-million pesos from through our lawyer, Atty. Freddie Villamor, in exchange for the dropping of said false charges and bad media publicity.'"
"Ewan ko lang kung ito 'yung General Diaz na dating namumuno ng PSG (Presidential Security Group) noong panahon ni President Erap. So baka mas may alam sa atin si Senator Jinggoy. Pero bottom line, ipinasa ko na lang itong sulat na ito kay Secretary Leila (de Lima) dahil siya nga ang in charge nung ating imbestigasyon dahil lahat ito basically—two pages—self-serving," he said.
"This is the third paragraph on page two: 'We are decent law-abiding citizens all our lives. We are not kidnappers. We are not criminals. My family and I are legitimate businessmen. We have been engaged in the business for the past 29 years and the main reason for our success is because of the trust and integrity attached to our good name,'" he added.
Estrada, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), has been charged with plunder for the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam before the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman is expected to decide soon if the case will be filed before the Sandiganbayan.
NEVER CLOSE TO NAPOLES
During the press briefing, the President maintained that he was never close to Napoles.
He said that as a member of the opposition during President Arroyo's term, he did not get priority development assistance funds (PDAF).
"Syempre ang interes niya allegedly, 'di ba, 'yung pagse-secure ng PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). Nung nag-opposition ako wala akong PDAF. So wala siyang interes na maging close sa akin dahil wala siyang mapapala sa akin. At kung sakali mang may PDAF ako, palagay may enough of a reputation ako na hindi ako lalapitan kung medyo hao shiao yung nangyayari doon, okay," he said.
He again explained a photograph of him with Napoles, which was taken at a birthday party in Cebu.
"So nagkataon na may pinuntahan akong birthday party na bisita rin siya. Tapos pag may lumapit sa akin—'pwede ho bang magpakuha ng picture?'—pwede ko bang sabihin maski kanino: 'Ah, hindi, ayoko. Hindi kita kilala'? E pulitiko ako, tumakbo ako, ano. Kung ginawa ko 'yon, palagay ko hindi na ako nahalal ni minsan."
"So part of the risks of the job, ano. Siya ang nagpakuha ng litrato. Pero 'yung may litrato kaming magkasama, yes. Close kami? Medyo sobra naman yatang extension non. At ulitin ko lang, ano, sa mga nagtatanong niyan balikan ko lang kayo: Ano ang pakinabang niyang maging close sa akin kung ang habol niya ay maghanapbuhay doon sa PDAF? Ilagay ko lang 'yung 'kung' ha. Syempre under process lahat yan," he said.
Napoles' letter to President Aquino was supposedly a "request for assistance" over the alleged extortion and blackmail activities by "unidentified suspicious characters in cohorts with some agents of the NBI" against her and Reynald Luy Lim.
In the letter, Napoles said she had feelings of disappointment, desperation and extreme fear for their lives. She said that on March 22, 2013, 15 NBI agents led by agent Rodante Berou and elements of the NBI's special task force under Rolando Argabioso set up a warrantless arrest when they stormed their condo unit in Pacific Plaza and arrested Lim.
The arrest was for the serious illegal detention case filed against them by the family of Benhur Luy.
She also said that when her camp refused the demand of P38 million by Baligod and Diaz, they were criticized by mass media.
She said Baligod later on demanded P250 million to P300 million as well as the issuance of Canadian visas for Luy's family members and himself, pocket money of 1.5 million US dollars, and opening of a legitimate pharmaceutical business with a capitalization of P30 million to be given to his youngest sister.
Attached to the letter was a summary of the illegal detention case. In the summary, it was claimed that Luy misappropriated Napoles' money and for which they wanted him charged. Lim, however, supposedly objected.
The summary also denied Luy was kidnapped, saying he was staying with Monsignor Jose Ramirez in Magallanes Village. It said Luy was even allowed to buy groceries.