Duterte wants truth in pork barrel scam
President Rodrigo Duterte wants the whole truth about the pork barrel scam and hold accountable all those involved, regardless of their political affiliations, Malacañang said on Friday, amid reports that the Senate might reopen its inquiry into the scheme to steal state funds.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it was the lawmakers’ prerogative to look into the multibillion-peso scam again.
Mr. Duterte is all for the truth, he said, adding that the President “has in fact publicly said that he wanted to revisit” the scam, which involved funneling money from lawmakers’ priority development assistance funds (PDAF) to private pockets.
“The President wants the truth to finally come out and hold those involved, regardless of political color or party line, accountable,” Abella said.
“The Filipino people deserves to know the truth in this case, not the slanted truth nor the doctored truth,” he added without elaborating.
Reopen PDAF probe
The Department of Justice earlier announced plans to reopen its investigation of the PDAF scam, prompting Sen. Francis Escudero to announce that he would seek a Senate probe if the administration’s inquiry became selective.
The lawyers of Janet Napoles, who allegedly hatched the scheme to use bogus nongovernmental groups to siphon lawmakers’ PDAF funds, have broached the idea of turning her into a state witness.
This followed her acquittal from the illegal detention case filed by pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy.
Solicitor General Jose Calida had supported the reversal of her conviction by the Makati Regional Trial Court before the Court of Appeals announced its decision to acquit Napoles.
The Senate blue ribbon committee investigated the scam in 2013 and recommended plunder charges against then Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada, who were in the opposition.
There had been calls to reopen the inquiry to look into the involvement of more politicians, but the committee did not take up the matter again.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan strongly objected to proposals to turn Napoles into a state witness, saying on Friday that the country’s justice system would become a laughing stock if that happened.
“Napoles will say anything to save her skin,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
“How did it happen that someone who had stolen the largest amount of money from the pork barrel, much more than those taken by politicians from each of whose transactions she got a share, would become a state witness?” Pangilinan said in Filipino.
However, he said he believed the courts would not approve such a plan.
“She (Napoles) is what you would call a mastermind and the court should not allow her to be exonerated,” the senator said.
Claiming threats to her life, Napoles had sought her transfer from the Correctional Institute for Women to the detention facility of the National Bureau of Investigation while still on trial as a coaccused in several plunder cases.
A four-page motion filed on Friday by her lawyers told the Sandiganbayan that the threat to Napoles’ security became “serious and strong” after the possibility emerged that she would be used as a state witness against “some high-ranking officials.”
The motion said she was “bombarded with everyday death threats to the point that her personal belongings were ransacked.” In addition, it said that she had received “written threats from unknown individuals.”
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, which is hearing one of the plunder cases against her, directed the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Ombudsman to reply to Napoles’s motion by Monday.
This division had denied her bail in Estrada’s plunder case.
The Sandiganbayan’s First and Third Divisions have also denied Napoles’s bail in the plunder cases against Revilla and Enrile, respectively.
Napoles was also implicated in two other plunder cases involving former Masbate 3rd District Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives Rep. Edgar Valdez.
The Second and Fifth Divisions handling the cases granted her bail, but the bail denial by the three other divisions meant she would remain detained.
Pork barrel story
The Inquirer broke the pork barrel scam story with a series of reports starting July 12, 2013.
In June 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman indicted Napoles and other government officials for plunder and multiple counts of graft.
Last August, the President raised the possibility of reopening the pork scam investigation which he said allegedly involved detained Sen. Leila de Lima when she was justice secretary.
Previous Inquirer reports based on affidavits and documents provided by whistle-blowers and findings of the Commission on Audit reports on the Department of Budget and Management listed lawmakers whose PDAF funds were allegedly liquidated by Napoles through bogus nongovernmental organizations. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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