Flurry of denials from the House of Representatives
MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers expressed surprise and shock after finding out that they were included on the list of personalities that made transactions with businesswoman and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, opening a flurry of denials from being involved in the billion-peso racket that angered the nation.
The solons also pointed out inaccuracies in a move to attack the credibility of the list purportedly provided to former Senator Panfilo Lacson who then submitted the list to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
‘Inaccurate,’ ‘no sense’
Pampanga Representative Oscar Rodriguez called the list as “inaccurate” for including him as he was just re-elected in the 16th Congress, at the time pork barrel funds were scrapped due to public outcry over the anomaly.
Rodriguez first served as Pampanga representative from 2001 to 2004 on the 12th Congress. He was just re-elected in 2013.
“I cannot understand. I’ve been gone in the House of Representatives for nine years. I just arrived here when there was no more PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund),” Rodriguez said.
“How is it possible that my name will be included?” he added.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer has reported that Napoles’ racket first became active in Congress under the 12th Congress.
Another lawmaker in the list, Cebu Rep. Gerald Gullas, also expressed disbelief because he is just serving his first term under the current Congress.
“This is my first term ever as a Congressman. I was not even a Congressman yet between the time Janet Napoles and her gang of thieves were plundering public funds…” Gullas said in a statement.
Gullas also said he has not availed PDAF when he assumed office because the Supreme Court had already blocked its release before eventually scrapping it for being unconstitutional.
“The inclusion of my name in one of the lists is outrageous, and makes no sense at all,” the first-time lawmaker said.
Veteran lawmakers even took it to the plenary in defending their names from the scam that harks back to the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), the predecessor of PDAF.
During his privilege hour, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla denied that his PDAF or CDF were coursed through Napoles for kickbacks.
Padilla noted though that his name was dragged into a funds misuse in the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in 2003. But he claimed his signatures for the project were forged.
While noting that the DOTC anomaly was not a PDAF project, the lawmaker maintained he has not transacted with Napoles.
“We wish to emphasize that not a centavo of our PDAF from 1995 to 2004 and from 2007 to the present has been earmarked to either the DOTC or to Napoles,” said Padilla, who is on his third term as Nueva Vizcaya representative. The veteran lawmaker was first elected in Congress in 1987 and was even a minister of state in the Marcos-era Interim Batasang Pambansa.
Meanwhile, Cebu city Rep. Raul Del Mar, in a separate privilege speech, said he has his constituents’ faith that he did not pillage his discretionary funds intended for his district.
He added that he is transparent in showing that his pork funds were allocated for projects under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Education.
“I am not guilty of (anomalous) release of PDAF allocations… My constituents in my district know exactly where the entire amount (of my CDF) went…” said Del Mar, who was first elected Cebu representative in 1987.
The other incumbent solons tagged in Lacson’s version of the Napoles list are: Compostela Valley Rep. Rommel Amatong, Laguna Rep. Joaquin Chipeco Jr., Lanao Del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella III, Bukidnon Rep. Florencio Flores, Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, An Waray Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab.