Bishop hits plunder raps: ‘Discriminatory, selective’
MANILA, Philippines—Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the plunder charges against Janet Lim-Napoles and several lawmakers appeared to be “discriminatory and selective” as it did not include other legislators found to have engaged in dubious deals using their pork barrel.
Pabillo said he was doubtful that only three senators and five former members of the House of Representatives were involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Napoles.
In Tanauan, Leyte, Vice President Jejomar Binay noted that only those coming from the opposition had been charged with plunder in relation to the misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), particularly the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Binay expressed hopes that the administration would be fair in its probe of all those involved in the pork barrel scam whether they were pro-administration or were in the opposition.
Sparing no one will be the only way to disprove the perception that the investigation targets only those from the opposition camp, Binay said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Over Church-run Radio Veritas, Pabillo said the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation must also charge other lawmakers, including allies of President Aquino, implicated in the alleged scam based on a special audit carried out by the Commission on Audit (COA).
On Monday, plunder charges were filed against Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, and former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lanete (now Masbate governor) and Edgar Valdez for allegedly allowing Napoles’ bogus nongovernment organizations to access their Priority Development Assistance Fund.
“It is OK that they were slapped with charges but I don’t believe that only these three senators and [five] congressmen have committed wrongdoing,” said Pabillo, chair of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“There are other legislators, including those allied with President Aquino, who must also face charges … because we know that this Napoles issue is very broad,” he said. “It will be very discriminatory and selective if these other legislators will not be charged.”
The prelate also urged the COA to release the findings of its special audit on the use of PDAF before 2007 and after 2009.
“All those involved [in the misuse of the pork barrel], including members of the administration party must also be charged,” Pabillo said.
A matter of ‘delicadeza’
But in the same breath, the prelate called on Enrile, Estrada and Revilla to take a leave from the Senate pending the investigation of their case.
“It’s a matter of delicadeza. They should take a rest first to give way to justice,” Pabillo said.
Earlier on Tuesday political opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) also questioned why lawmakers allied with the administration were not included in the cases filed in the Office of the Ombudsman.
UNA noted that a COA report also raised questions over the use of PDAF of former Cibac Rep. Joel Villanueva, Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., former Sen. Edgardo Angara, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, among others.
“It’s just surprising. Although the ones charged were first batch only, all of them are not friends of the administration. It’s quite sad,” Binay said.
“I hope that those who will be charged will not all come from the opposition so as to dispel accusations or speculation that the opposition is being targeted,” he added.
Binay was in Tanauan as part of his swing visits to three municipalities of Leyte on Wednesday. He was in Palo town and then later, in Alangalang town.
Asked if he personally believed that the three opposition leaders were involved in the pork barrel scam, Binay did not give a categorical answer.
“There is always the presumption of innocence unless you are convicted,” he said.
Binay acknowledged that he had talked with Enrile and Estrada on the issue, but he did not give details on what transpired during their conversation.