Politically motivated or not, the pork barrel controversy should result in the prosecution of those who are liable, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said on Thursday.
Enrile, the most senior among the opposition senators implicated in the P10-billion scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, also called on the National Bureau of Investigation to confront him if there was any case against him.
“If we’re at fault, then let us suffer the consequences,” Enrile said in Filipino.
Enrile answered in the negative when asked if the NBI had gotten in touch with him on the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“I don’t know what they have. It’s better that we will be confronted with their evidence,” Enrile said.
On the Department of Justice reportedly preparing charges against lawmakers implicated in the racket, Enrile said: “It’s OK. For me, they can investigate it. Better.”
No running away
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, another opposition figure in the middle of the controversy, indicated he wouldn’t run away from accountability if charges were filed against him.
“Before, [my father President Joseph Estrada and I] had warrants for our arrest. We didn’t go in hiding,” Estrada said at the weekly news forum at the Senate.
Estrada also expressed faith in Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s fairness. “I don’t think she will just file cases against lawmakers without basis,” he said.
Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. revealed their children’s association with the Napoleses.
Estrada said his daughter was a classmate of a Napoles nephew. “She’s an acquaintance. I won’t deny that I know her,” Estrada said of the alleged scam mastermind.
‘Legal and legitimate’
Estrada said he might have signed PDAF endorsements “but I do not know if those particular endorsements belong to her or to bogus nongovernment organizations. I wouldn’t have known.”
Reacting to a report on the news website Rappler, Revilla said that his son Bryan’s business partnership with a Napoles child “was legal and legitimate.”
“I was introduced once or twice to Ms Napoles and have seen her occasionally in certain social gatherings. Aside from the customary hi’s and hello’s, we had no other interaction with each other,”
Revilla said in a statement.
“My son Bryan, on the other hand, and one of her children were schoolmates in high school. I understand that they, with other friends, were in the business of importing and selling rubber shoes. This is the PB & J Corp.,” Revilla added.
Spare the children
Revilla said that the business “is being tainted with malice.”
“I think that this malicious story is another attempt by some sectors to malign us. If they want to destroy me, let them go after me. Spare my children,” Revilla said.
Senators urged the investigation of the departments of agriculture and budget, saying these agencies had the duty to determine the legitimacy of requests for funding of projects under their pork barrel.
In separate interviews, Senators Gregorio Honasan, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Estrada stressed their offices did not have the “mechanism” necessary to check whether requests for financing from their PDAF were legitimate.
The NBI is looking into allegations that funds from the pork barrel of the three, along with those of Enrile and Revilla had been channeled to ghost projects of dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.
Six whistle-blowers, all former employees of Napoles, claimed in affidavits that over the past decade, P10 billion had been fleeced from the PDAF of the five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives and other state agencies.
Honasan lamented what he described as a “serialized media account” of the NBI inquiry. “We were already warned, we were given information during the campaign that this would happen,” he told Inquirer.
Media reports on the alleged scam, Honasan said, were “incomplete, inaccurate and unverified.” He said he and his colleagues would not be unjustly vilified had the freedom of information bill he had sponsored in the last Congress have been signed into law.
Honasan said even the Commission on Audit had advised his office “not to react to the media reports” in the meantime that it was verifying the signatures of mayors who requested funding from PDAF and the purportedly dubious NGOs.
A senator’s office, he said, “has no capability or checking mechanism” such as that of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to verify the requests.
Since the DBM collects certificates from requesting local government units (LGUs), he said, “all beneficiaries are verifiable at their level while a senator’s office can only identify a project based on a request from an LGU.”