2 Cabinet men on Napoles list, says Lacson
MANILA, Philippines—The number of high-ranking officials linked to the pork barrel scam keeps adding up and now includes two secretaries in President Aquino’s Cabinet.
Based on the separate lists provided by alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and whistle-blower Benhur Luy, up to 21 former and incumbent senators were involved in the alleged diversion of state funds to kickbacks and ghost projects, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson said at the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel in Manila on Monday.
“There are two Cabinet secretaries, but obviously their alleged participation happened when they were still congressmen … before they became members of the Cabinet but I don’t know when,” said the former head of the Philippine National Police.
Lacson, the presidential assistant on the rehabilitation of typhoon-wracked Eastern Visayas, said he also had a “glimpse” of Luy’s list. He noted this was as reliable as the document provided to him by Napoles through her husband, Jimmy, on March 27.
Comparing the two lists, he observed that two senators mentioned in Napoles’ paper did not appear in Luy’s list.
“Of course, the most reliable source of information is Mrs. Napoles and of course Benhur,” he said.
“Remember that the hard drive is in his possession, so we can say that both are reliable,” he said, referring to Luy’s digital files containing Napoles’ entire business transactions involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Hard disk drive
Detailed records of the amounts of kickbacks given to lawmakers and other government officials are in Luy’s hard disk drive (HDD).
Lacson said that if the two lists were combined, there were 21 past and present senators linked to the PDAF scam, revising his earlier count of 16. Of the 21, he said 12 were incumbent, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla who have all been indicted for plunder.
Over the weekend, he warned that the 24-member Senate might collapse if Napoles’ affidavit was made public.
Lacson said he was prepared to turn over the three sets of documents in his possession—the list, a draft affidavit and the narration of events spanning 10 years from 2000—to the Senate and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“But I can only attest to the probable authenticity but as to the truthfulness of what is contained in those three sets of documents, I cannot testify,” he said.
Lacson said he talked to Sen. Teofisto Guingona III on Monday, hours before the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee announced that De Lima and Lacson had been ordered to surrender the purported Napoles documents.
“I asked him how he would like to proceed. I told him that if you will subpoena me, I will show up. If you will say that I turn over the documents, [I will] and I will leave the disposition [of the documents] to you,” Lacson said.
He also said he was planning to meet with De Lima within the week so that they could compare notes and eventually turn over the documents to the justice secretary.
De Lima said she secured the Napoles papers during a five-hour “tell-all” meeting on April 22 during which the detained businesswoman said she wanted to turn state witness and that she feared for her life. In November, Napoles told the senate panel she knew nothing of the PDAF scam.
In a text message to the Inquirer Monday, Lacson said he informed Aquino last week before he left for Burma (Myanmar) about the list of lawmakers tagged in the racket.
Surprised, not worried
“He seemed surprised but not worried,” Lacson said. Aquino then “reiterated his position” that the inquiry should “proceed where the evidence will lead the investigation,” he said.
On the two Cabinet secretaries, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma pointed out during a news briefing that the allegation pertained to their previous stint as members of Congress, “not to their term as members of the Cabinet.”—With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
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