Pork scam whistleblowers worried with De Lima, Justiniano out of DOJ
Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers in the alleged pork barrel scam are worried now that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Undersecretary Jose Justiniano have left the Department of Justice.
In an interview with reporters on Monday, Justiniano said he has talked personally with Luy and another witness Merlina Sunas who told him of their worries that they would no longer be protected from threats without the guidance of De Lima and Justiniano, who both led the initial investigations into the scam.
Luy and Sunas were former employees of the accused scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles, who stands accused of plunder for forming bogus foundations which received lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), only to have these spent in ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks.
Justiniano resigned on Oct. 14. He assisted the Ombudsman prosecutors in leading the plunder and graft cases against Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada, as well as former representatives Edgar Valdez and Rizalina Lanete.
Revilla and Estrada are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, while Valdez and Lanete at Camp Bagong Diwa. Enrile, meanwhile, was allowed bail by the Supreme Court due to his age and stature.
Justiniano assured the witnesses, who have admitted to forging signatures upon Napoles’ instructions and have seen the exchange of alleged kickbacks to the lawmakers’ agents, that they should still be protected under the Witness Protection Program.
“Nalaman ko na ang mga whisteblowers, nababahala sila dahil aalis na nga raw si Sec. De Lima, umalis pa ako. Kaya ako pumunta rito para i-assure sila na wala silang kailangang ikatakot. Kahit wala kami, tuloy pa rin ang proteksiyon na ibibigay sa inyo ng goberyo,” Justiniano said in an interview at the sidelines of Valdez’s bail hearing from plunder. Luy was the witness at the time.
(I learned that the whistleblowers are worried because Sec. De Lima and I have left [the DOJ]. That’s why I came here, to assure them that they have nothing to be afraid of. Even though we are not there anymore, the protection given by the government to them will continue.)
“Natural lang naman yun eh na kung ikaw may magulang na umalis, magaalala ka… Sabi nila, ‘USec, paano na kami niyan, wala na si Sec. De Lima, wala pa kayo?’ Siyempre nagtiwala sila sa amin,” he added.
(It’s natural; if your parents were to leave, you’d be worried too… They said, “USec, what will happen to us now that Sec. De Lima and you are gone?” Of course they trusted us.)
Justiniano vowed that he would still help the whistleblowers even after he shifts to private practice.
“Sabi ko, huwag kayo mag-alala, kahit ako nasa private sector, tutulungan ko pa rin kayo,” Justiniano said.
(I said, don’t worry, even though I’m in the private sector, I will still help you.)
Justiniano said he resigned from office because his family would like him to focus on private practice. His office is also coterminous with President Benigno Aquino III, whose term ends after the May 2016 elections.
Meanwhile, De Lima has resigned as secretary of justice for her senatorial bid under Aquino’s Liberal Party. She was replaced by Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Aquino’s chief presidential legal counsel and a classmate in Ateneo, as ad interim secretary.
Justiniano resigned from the Department of Justice on the same day Caguioa assumed office. Before Caguioa was chosen, Justiniano was rumored to be the strongest candidate for De Lima’s replacement.
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