Detained governor pleads not guilty in pork barrel case
Detained Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete on Thursday pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges brought against her in the Sandiganbayan by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Lanete has been indicted for plunder and graft cases in the antigraft court’s Fourth Division for allegedly pocketing P108.4 million of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when she was the representative of the lone district of Masbate from 2004 to 2010.
Lanete, who was accompanied by her lawyers and family members, was greeted by about 50 of her province mates who traveled to the Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City to show their support.
Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged PDAF scam mastermind, also entered a not guilty plea along with several other coaccused, among them suspended Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and former Technology Resource Center head Dennis Cunanan.
Both Lanete and Napoles are being held at the female detention facility of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
Laurence Arroyo, the governor’s counsel, reiterated his client’s claim of innocence and claimed that her signatures in the PDAF documents were forged.
He said Lanete’s lawyers would immediately file a petition for bail in a bid to secure her temporary freedom.
“The main defense of Governor Lanete is that her signature on many of the documents were forged,” Arroyo told reporters.
“Our second argument is that it is the implementing agencies which should be implementing the projects and that the only role of the lawmaker in the use of PDAF is to identify the projects,” he added.
The lawyer said Lanete had already adjusted to life behind bars, is now “back in her fighting form” and is hoping for the court to grant her provisional liberty.
“We look forward to the bail hearings as an opportunity for her to finally vindicate her name and hopefully at the end of the bail hearings, the court can grant her bail,” Arroyo said.
He said they were “surprised” that some Masbate residents went to the Sandiganbayan to throw their support for the governor.
“I understand that they all came from Masbate and that last night, there was even a greater crowd in Masbate holding a vigil for Governor Lanete,” he said.
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