LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—A peeved Secretary Nereus Acosta on Tuesday dodged questions about his status as a Cabinet member following the issuance of an arrest warrant against him by the Sandiganbayan.
The antigraft court on Jan. 24 put out a warrant for Acosta and his mother, Socorro, on a perjury case filed in connection with the alleged illegal funneling of P5.5 million in Acosta’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to a favored NGO when he was the congressman from Bukidnon in 2006.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte had earlier said the Palace expected Acosta, now the presidential adviser on environmental protection, to follow the law but she ruled out his immediate removal from the Cabinet.
In a chance interview here, Acosta said the warrant had not yet been served. He refused to elaborate and referred the matter to his lawyer.
“I came here for them,” he said, pointing to the 250 or so members of Partido Kalikasan, a political party that invited him to be their guest speaker at their chapter assembly here.
“I am [just] doing my job,” he said.
In the open forum that followed, he evaded the issue of the arrest warrant, saying only that it was the handiwork of his detractors who were after him because of his campaign against illegal logging and mining. He said he would rather focus on the Partido Kalikasan which was mas totoo kausap (more sincere to deal with).
Acosta, also the general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), delivered a presentation on the status of the Laguna lake basin and the government’s programs on environmental protection.
He reiterated the administration’s priority programs of flood mitigation and disaster risk reduction, this even after the President shelved the controversial P18-billion Laguna Lake dredging project with a Belgian company.
He said the government had allotted P5 billion for the flood control programs in Metro Manila and Laguna. Of the amount, P780 million would go to the LLDA following the agency’s agreement with the Department of Public Works and Highways in December 2012 to drain 24 river tributaries.
The initial draining of the rivers in Santa Maria, Biñan City, Pagsanjan and Lumban, all in Laguna province, is expected to start soon, he said.
“It would be difficult to bring back Laguna Lake to its former state in the 1980s, but we should start thinking, studying and talking now about how to prevent it from worsening,” Acosta said.