Palace defends Ochoa
Malacañang on Saturday defended Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. against insinuations he had knowledge of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview that Ochoa was being accused of “guilt by association.”
Guilt by association, she said, “does not stand up in any investigation or in any court.”
“I really don’t know why ES Ochoa is being linked (to the scam). ES has nothing to do with this, so we don’t know the intention of those dragging him into this,” Valte said.
When the alleged brains behind the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles, sat for an interview with the Inquirer on Friday in a Makati hotel, the first words she blurted out in Filipino were in defense of Ochoa.
“Hey, Ochoa has nothing to do with this case,” said Napoles, referring to the executive secretary, a founding partner of the MOST Law Office.
Ochoa divested himself of interests in the law firm after joining the Aquino administration in 2010.
MOST stands for Marcos (Liza Marcos, wife of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.), Ochoa, Edward Serapio and Joseph Tan.
Napoles insisted that “MOST is not my lawyer,” although an affidavit she had submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, which is probing her activities, named MOST as her lawyers.
Valte said she could not comment on the specific allegations, as the investigation had just begun.
But she said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had briefed President Benigno Aquino III on the NBI investigation.
Valte said she did not know how the President reacted to De Lima’s report because she was not present at the briefing.
She said Ochoa was apparently being linked to the scam because his former law firm was mentioned in the news reports.
But no one is attributing wrongdoing to Ochoa, she said.
Administration sources told the Inquirer that Napoles had been hobnobbing with the rich and powerful for a long time. She was last seen in a gathering that was attended by members of the Senate.
Last year, she attended the birthday party of Sen. Franklin Drilon at Club Filipino and lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes, the former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, at Shangri-La Hotel.
According to the sources, the Liberal Party (LP) campaign for the elections in May received a donation of P10 million.
Valte said she had no information about that donation, and referred the Inquirer to the LP.
In a phone interview, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, spokesperson for the Liberal Party campaign, neither confirmed nor denied that Napoles had donated money to the ruling party.
“I don’t know. That’s easily verifiable because it’s in the statement of expenditures and contributions, which is a public document,” Quimbo said.
“I’ve never seen her in LP circles. I really don’t know if she contributed (to the LP), but I don’t recall. Although we had many contributors not known to me personally, so we’ll have to take a look at it,” he said.
Quimbo said Napoles was more identified with the “past administration.”
Napoles had written President Aquino to vehemently deny that she had engaged in shady deals described by an NBI agent as the “mother of all scams.”