Cabinet execs will attend pork scam hearing if asked, says PalaceBy TJ A. Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Cabinet officials are willing to appear at congressional inquiries into the P10-billion pork barrel scam if they’re invited, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda shrugged off insinuations on a radio show biz program about the presence of certain Cabinet officials in the parties thrown by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
However, if the Senate blue ribbon committee issues a formal invitation to Cabinet officials to shed light on its inquiry into the alleged large-scale misuse of the pork barrel, Cabinet officials would comply, Lacierda said.
“If we are asked to attend, we will attend I suppose,” Lacierda told reporters after emerging from a closed-door full Cabinet meeting called by President Aquino in Malacañang.
Asked about the radio program, Lacierda said, “We are not going to dignify a statement coming from a show biz personality.”
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was previously linked to Napoles. The MOST law firm, which Ochoa founded, initially acted as a counsel for Napoles in a kidnapping case filed by the scam chief whistle-blower, but later withdrew from it.
“The way ES (executive secretary) explained it to me is that she was a walk-in client. When ES learned they had accepted her as a client, knowing fully well the issues involved—and he can’t be an active partner, he advised them to withdraw their services,” the President told Inquirer editors and staff last Thursday night.
No official ‘interfering’
Lacierda said that so far, Malacañang had not discussed dealings by any of the Cabinet officials with Napoles. He also said that no Cabinet official was “interfering” with the investigation of the scam by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Malacañang is not worried by the delay in the filing of plunder charges against Napoles and other key personalities over the scam, he said.
“It’s a case buildup,” he said. He doubted the investigation had been suspended following the resignation of NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas, which the President had yet to act on.
“The NBI investigation continues regardless of who resigns,” Lacierda said.