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Palace prepared to charge its allies

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Malacañang announced Wednesday it was prepared to prosecute allies of President Benigno Aquino III amid speculation that Liberal Party stalwarts had been implicated in the diversion of pork barrel funds to dubious foundations.

The Inquirer has learned that Mr. Aquino summoned Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala Tuesday afternoon just hours after he was briefed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on her five-hour meeting with Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged architect of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, during which the businesswoman executed an affidavit involving the diversion of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects and kickbacks.

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At least three sources with access to Napoles’ affidavit said that Abad and Alcala were among the lawmakers that Napoles confessed to have transactions. Abad was Batanes’ lone representative from 1995 to 2004 and Alcala served as representative of Quezon’s second district from 2004 to 2010. Napoles is widely believed to have started her PDAF operations in 2001.

“Our focus here is the quest for truth,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. “The President has time and again said that the evidence itself must provide the direction,” he said at the regular Palace news briefing.

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Both Abad and Alcala were quick to douse what a Palace source described as a hush-hush damage control meeting called by the President posthaste following the De Lima briefing.

“That is not true,” Abad said in a text message. He said the meeting discussed procurements for the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and concerns over the coronavirus.

Abad said he was not surprised that he was the subject of public conjecture considering his political ties. “I will not be surprised. I have been periodically subject to that,” said Abad who reckoned that wild speculation would persist until Napoles’ signed affidavit is released.

Alcala said the meeting did not touch on Napoles’ revelations to De Lima. “We discussed agriculture programs, including rehabilitation plans for Yolanda,” he said, referring to programs for victims of the supertyphoon that hit Eastern Visayas last Nov. 8. “I am now in Tacloban, Palo and Tanauan, Leyte,” said Alcala.

Several incumbent members of the upper house belonging to the Liberal Party and those who have publicly railed against senators who have been implicated in the PDAF scam were also included in the Napoles affidavit, the sources said.

Lawyers of the whistle-blowers on Wednesday said that Napoles’ decision to reveal her PDAF operation, ostensibly after receiving death threats, was part of a ploy to sabotage the plunder case against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. in the alleged pork barrel scam.

The sources said that while Napoles shared documents that would pin down administration allies, she had been stingy in giving documents that would nail down Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, who have denied wrongdoing.

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They said that Napoles’ tactic was hatched in connivance with the three senators who communicated to Napoles through the mobile phone of her children during their visits.

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TAGS: Florencio Abad, Janet Lim Napoles, Janet Napoles, PDAF, pork barrel funds, pork barrel scam, pork scam, Priority Development Assistance Fund, Proceso Alcala, Secretary Abad, Secretary Alcala
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