Pimentel: We can still get the truth on PDAF
MANILA, Philippines—Senators can still extract the truth about the riveting conversion of P10 billion in “pork barrel” funds into kickbacks by legislators even if businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, clamps up during next week’s Senate hearing, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said on Monday.
Pimentel said the trick was not to force the truth out of the alleged pork barrel queen, but to piece together all the testimonies of her erstwhile employees who have turned into whistle-blowers.
That way, he said, the senators could get to the truth of the scandal that has roiled Congress and the bureaucracy for months now.
Napoles is expected to invoke her right against self-incrimination when she appears before the Senate blue ribbon committee which is conducting an ongoing hearing on the scam on Thursday next week.
Pimentel and some of his colleagues doubt that Napoles feared enough the prospect of being cited in contempt by the Senate committee to tell everything she knew about the scam.
After all, the penalty for contempt is detention, and Napoles is already detained inside a police training camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, over the illegal detention of her cousin-turned-whistle-blower Benhur Luy.
“We can get to the bottom of the truth without her testimony,” Pimentel, a member of the blue ribbon committee, said by phone.
Luy and the rest of the whistle-blowers, as well as heads of agencies that funneled the legislators’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to bogus nongovernment organizations could fill the gaps and complete the picture, he said.
In previous hearings, the whistle-blowers provided the most damning testimonies against Napoles and legislators who allegedly got kickbacks from the pork barrel over a period of 10 years beginning with the Arroyo administration.
Pimentel, a lawyer, said Napoles should have been merely “invited” to clear her name.
But since the committee has already issued a subpoena for her to appear at its Nov. 7 hearing, senators would have to grill her, but respect her every time she invokes her right against self-incrimination, he said.
And every time she invokes such right, the senators would debate whether her possible answer is incriminating to her, and in instances when this is not, she could be cited in contempt, the senator said.
“But is that scary enough for her to speak up?” Pimentel asked. He doubted that the prospect of being cited in contempt, or being detained on Senate orders, would scare her enough to tell the truth.
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