MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday vowed to pursue the investigation of the P10-billion scam using lawmakers’ pork barrel funds “relentlessly” but “quietly.”
De Lima said she could not say “with a straight face” who among those being linked to the racket were really involved because the National Bureau of Investigation had not completed its inquiry.
Still, because of the “heat” generated by the Inquirer series of reports exposing the scam, allegedly perpetuated by Janet Lim-Napoles, De Lima said she had offered that whistle-blower Benhur Luy and his family be placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“Anytime, they will be covered by the WPP,” she said.
At a news conference, De Lima was also asked whether the 28 lawmakers linked to the scam in the Inquirer report were the only ones involved in the investigation.
“Suffice it to say that there are several names mentioned in the affidavits gathered by the NBI,” she said. “We are keeping it under wraps because we don’t want those details [exposed] until more or less the investigation is complete or we have strong evidence.”
De Lima cleared Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., one of the founding partners of the MOST law office, which prepared Napoles’ affidavit in the illegal detention case filed by Luy against Napoles.
“I haven’t seen any document showing the involvement of ES (Ochoa) directly or indirectly,” she said.
Asked whether the ongoing probe might affect her confirmation as justice secretary by the Commission on Appointments, De Lima said: “If that’s the price I have to pay in just discharging our mandate, so be it. What will I choose, discharge our mandate or be scared of pressure?”—Christine O. Avendaño