‘President Aquino hasn’t asked Abad about scam’
MANILA, Philippines—A palace spokesperson on Saturday parried questions on President Benigno Aquino III’s reaction to reports that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was the “mentor” of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, saying that the two officials had not yet discussed the matter.
Over state-run radio dzRB, Undersecretary Abigail Valte said the President and his budget secretary had too much on their plates last week to discuss the newspaper headlines, which linked Abad and 10 more senators to the multibillion-peso scam that defrauded the poor beneficiaries of Priority Assistance Development Funds (PDAF).
Abad, a former congressman, was the campaign manager of the Liberal Party that brought Aquino to office in 2010.
“From what I know, they didn’t have that discussion,” said Valte when asked if Mr. Aquino had asked Abad to explain the report that appeared in a broadsheet late last week.
“I know that they’ve seen each other in the past week but for other matters,” Valte said.
Newspaper reports had it that Napoles had implicated Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and a host of senators considered to be allies of the Aquino administration.
“As far as we are concerned, nobody else has the affidavit,” Valte said, referring to Napoles’ tell-all statement.
“It’s (Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima who is in possession of the affidavit of Napoles and until such time that the affidavit is made public then it’s at best speculation on the part of whoever wants to make this allegation,” Valte added.
Valte also wouldn’t comment on the reported linking of more than 10 senators to the pork barrel scam.
“It’s difficult to comment because to comment on that would agree with the premise that more than 10 senators are mentioned in the affidavit,” she said.
“[It’s] a little hard to comment on that at this point given that we really don’t know what is in that affidavit apart from those that are already revealed by Secretary De Lima,” she added.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, vice chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said Napoles’ list of people she dealt with should be disclosed even without the documentary evidence demanded by Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“You can’t sanitize that … that’s not a statement of the police. That’s the statement of Napoles,” Osmeña said over dwIZ radio.
“Whether or not there’s evidence, you should come out with the list. The supporting evidence, documents, etc., can follow later,” Osmeña added.
Told of Drilon’s assertion that the list of implicated senators should be accompanied by documentary evidence, Osmeña said: “That’s also right.”
“But that’s the statement of one person. Her (Napoles’) whole testimony has yet to be used by the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan. This is merely a statement. So the whole statement should be disclosed. The Department of Justice can judge later whether her statement has basis,” Osmeña said.