Pimentel withdraws support for bill decriminalizing libel
MANILA, Philippines —The media have become unexpected casualties in the continuing unraveling of the pork barrel scam.
There is now a slim chance that Senate bills decriminalizing libel would be passed by the chamber as the head of the justice and human rights committee tackling the measures expressed dismay over the way some in the media have been reporting the pork barrel scam to the detriment of those allegedly involved, including himself.
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III told reporters Tuesday he believed the bills’ chances of passage have diminished, and the press could verify this with his fellow senators.
Pimentel said he was waiting to see how many lawmakers and officials linked by Janet Lim Napoles to the scam would file libel charges against her.
He said he planned to sue Napoles for libel and perjury, after she executed an affidavit naming him as one of 120 current and former lawmakers with whom she had dealings involving the diversion of allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund from 2000 to 2009.
“Now while there is libel in the Revised Penal Code, I will take advantage of it,” Pimentel said.
The senator said that aside from Napoles, he would also file libel cases against some people he deemed to have damaged his reputation, and these may include some media outfits.
In an interview over dwIZ radio, Pimentel said he was not happy with the media’s pork barrel scam coverage as his reputation and those of others allegedly involved had been trifled with and ruined.
That was why he was contemplating not to push anymore for the bills decriminalizing libel that were pending in his committee.
“I will have to retain libel as an option,” he said.
Addressing Napoles’ claims in her affidavit that she dealt with him through his agents—his former wife Jewel Lobaton and Louie Cruz—Pimentel denied he was friends with Cruz, noting that the latter was a friend of Napoles who had helped arrange her interview with the Inquirer last year.
As for his ex-wife, he said, he had asked her about Cruz’ claim that he gave her money in exchange for projects but she denied it.
Pimentel admitted though that he met with Napoles on May 21, 2012 through Robert Castañeda who had raised concern over Cruz’ allegation about his wife.
“Janet Napoles alleged that she was the source of the money allegedly given by Louie Cruz to Jewel. During the meeting, she asked for ‘projects’ (apparently or maybe so that she could recover the amount she allegedly disbursed or advanced). I refused her request outright,” he said later in a statement.
Pimentel said records would show he did not give a single centavo of his PDAF to Napoles, her nongovermental organizations or any NGO. He made it clear he did not trade, sell or make money out of his pork barrel funds.
“If my estranged wife had been involved with Louie Cruz and/or Napoles, as claimed by Napoles, then that is her own doing, out of her own volition,” Pimentel said.
He said he now realized it was a mistake to have had dinner with Napoles but still he believed he did “the right thing by not dealing with her regarding my PDAF or any other matter.”
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