Now, it’s an Aquino photo with Jeane Napoles: ‘No big deal’

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President Aquino has a photo with 23-year-old Jeane Napoles taken at one of the functions to celebrate San Pedro Calungsod’s canonization on Nov. 30, 2012, in Cebu City.

Malacañang confirmed this late Wednesday, saying that Aquino had his picture taken with the youngest daughter of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang surmised that Napoles was probably one of a dozen or so who had posed for pictures with the President at the time.

“There were hundreds of people there,” Carandang said. “It’s no big deal.”

Carandang wasn’t sure whether the chance meeting occurred in a gathering before or after the Thanksgiving Mass officiated by Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

“At that event, at least a dozen people had their pictures taken (with Aquino),” he said.

“But I can confirm that he was at a function when it was taken,” he added.

Asked if Janet and her spouse Jaime were also there, Carandang said: “It’s possible. The mother and father could have been there,” he said. “But I didn’t see a picture (of the President) with Mrs. Napoles. There were lots of people. I didn’t see a picture that they were together, but for all you know (a picture has been taken).”

The picture was posted to the Instagram account of Jeane (@jeanenapoles). It had 59 likes and accompanied with a caption: “Ending the eventful month of November in Cebu. With Noynoy Aquino, President of the Philippines.”

It contained the hashtags #pnoy, #party, #novemberfun, #cebu and #itsmorefuninthephilippines.

Carandang was with Aquino in Malacañang when they learned of the picture late Wednesday.

“To be exact, (a copy of the) picture was sent to (presidential spokesman) Edwin Lacierda. I was in a meeting with the President, so the picture was sent to me,” Carandang said.

Asked if Aquino had seen the picture, Carandang said: “I didn’t show the picture to the President. But after the meeting I gave it to the staff and I said, ‘Can you show it to the President?’”

Carandang also hurriedly asked a staff member to confirm its authenticity by checking the presidential archives for a similar copy.

“We checked (the picture archives) and saw a picture with Jeane and the President,” he said.

Said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte: “I understand the photo was taken at an event last November in Cebu. She had her photo taken with the President, as did a dozen other people who lined up to have their photo taken with him.”

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