Aquino says allies linked to Napoles ‘innocent until proven guilty’
MANILA, Philippines – They might have been tagged in the pork barrel scam but that does not automatically mean that they are guilty and should be consequently sacked. That was President Benigno Aquino III’s reaction to critics calling for the removal of Cabinet members allegedly named in Janet Lim-Napoles’ affidavit.
“Dito sa bansa natin karapatan ng bawat isa ang pinangangalagaan at isa sa mga tenets ng ating batas ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” Aquino said in an interview in Negros Occidental.
(Here in our country, we protect the rights of every one and among the tenets of our law is that people should be considered ‘innocent until proven guilty.’)
The statement came days after Secretary Panfilo “Ping” Lacson made available, to the media and the Senate, Napoles’ alleged list of pork barrel scam players. It included Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Secretary Joel Villanueva.
In the interview transcript made available to media, the President said it was normal for people to express dissatisfaction with the work of a certain official.
He said it was wrong to just remove an official because he received criticism.
During the course of the interview, he discussed the fertilizer fund scam and the cases filed against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and compared it to the pork barrel scam.
He emphasized that it was not the government that filed the complaint against Arroyo and that his administration will re-file the charges after building an air-tight case.
“So palagay ko obligasyon ko sa sambayanan manigurado (na) ‘pag naghain tayo ng kaso matibay ang ebidensya para talagang maparusahan ‘yung nagkasala,” he said.
(I think it is my obligation to the people to ensure that when we file a case, the evidence is strong so the perpetrator may be appropriately punished.)
Aquino, referring to news on lawmakers accused of misuse of public funds, explained that they cannot file cases based on hearsay.
He said it was wrong to remove someone based on just criticism.
The President pointed out the case of Villanueva, Director-General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), who was among those mentioned in Napoles’ alleged list.
He said the request letter attributed Villanueva did not even have the correct letterhead. It had the letterhead of another partylist, not Cibac (Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption), which Villanueva once represented in the House of Representatives.
He said the evidence was insufficient and that it would be disservice to the beneficiaries of Tesda if Villanueva was replaced.
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