MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said a letter submitted by alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to President Aquino in April 2013 was a desperate attempt to cast aspersions on government investigators.
Speaking before the bicameral Commission on Appointments, De Lima said she received instructions from President Aquino's staff that she answer the allegations Napoles placed in her letter.
The letter accused then Levito Baligod of trying to extort money from Napoles. It also complained of harassment from some individuals who were allegedly in cahoots with corrupt National Bureau of Investigation agents.
De Lima said she immediately asked the NBI to comment on Napoles' letter so she could respond.
She also said she felt offended by Mrs. Napoles' accusations that the NBI were trying to extort money from her.
"My sentiments then were I was really so offended by these insinuations and these accusations of Mrs. Napoles accusing unnamed NBI agents of extorting from her. I believe in the explanation of the NBI that it was just her way of getting back at them for undertaking that rescue operations of Benhur Luy," she said.
The justice chief noted that the letter to President Aquino came less than a month after NBI agents rescued Luy from JLN. Luy, the key whistle-blower in the pork barrel scam, has filed a serious illegal detention case against Napoles.
De Lima said Napoles submitted the letter because she knew that Luy would talk about the scam involving lawmakers' pork barrel funds.
"It was a desperate attempt on Mrs. Napoles to cast aspersions on the integrity of the investigators who were investigating her not just for serious illegal detention but the PDAF scam," she said.
"We knew we had something very, very big," she added.
She also said that instead of writing a letter to President Aquino, Napoles could have submitted a formal sworn complaint and insist on her allegations of harassment and extortion.
During the hearing, De Lima also confirmed that she no longer investigated retired general Rodolfo Diaz's possible involvement in the alleged extortion on Napoles. Diaz is a former head of the Presidential Security Group during the time of President Estrada.
"I felt no need to further pursue that claim because the explanation of the NBI and Atty. Baligod were to me, at that point, satisfactory," she said.