• Aquino wants ‘pork’ plunderers convicted

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    PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd wants nothing less than a conviction for lawmakers and other individuals proven to have plundered public funds, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday.

    In a press briefing at Malacañang, Lacierda said the President expects the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its prosecutors to gather enough evidence to warrant a conviction.

    “The role of the prosecution is to gather all evidence that would come up with, not
    only a situation that would merit a probable cause for filing, but also to ensure a successful prosecution,” Lacierda said.

    “That has always been the instruction of the President. It’s not enough that we file a case, it should merit a conviction,” he said.

    Besides Ruby Tuason, who turned state witness against Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and others who allegedly pocketed huge kickbacks from pork barrel transactions, more witnesses will surface, President Aquino said Wednesday.

    Lacierda said it was up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to screen those who step forward to testify for the prosecution in the billion-peso scheme.

    De Lima and her team “are the ones evaluating the evidence, so I would defer to them. If, for instance, Secretary Leila de Lima says ‘it’s a slam dunk evidence’, we would presume that there is basis for her to say that,” he said.

    According to Lacierda, the testimonies of Tuason and other whistleblowers such as Benhur Luy will back up the documentary evidence, such as the Commission on Audit (COA) report, that the DOJ has gathered.

    While Lacierda said he considered Tuason’s account of how she delivered millions to Estrada as credible, it would still have to be verified and assessed by the Justice Department and the Office of the Ombudsman.

    “We can only go so far as to how the DOJ has evaluated the situation, and also by the fact that the testimony of Ruby Tuason is one based on personal experience. That is currently being evaluated by the DOJ, and I understand there was some clarifi[catory]—correct me if I’m wrong—there was a clarificatory hearing with the Ombudsman,” he said.

    Lacierda said he is not in a position to identify who the new witnesses are.

    “The President himself has not said anybody with specificity, so we don’t want to preempt him. But certainly, once they are willing to share information, it will be relayed to the Department of Justice for evaluation,” he said.

    Lacierda said the Palace welcomes the proposal of Estrada for the Senate to also investigate senators with whom Tuason has had dealings in the past.

    He said it is up to the Senate to heed Estrada’s call, stressing “the DOJ will just evaluate the evidence presented.”

    Other than Estrada, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla and scores of former congressmen and government officials have been charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion priority development assistance fund scheme allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.

    Unafraid
    Estrada was unfazed by the President’s announcement that more witnesses will emerge, even if one of them could be his former secretary, Pauline Labayen.

    Estrada on Thursday said Labayen will not do a Ruby Tuason. He admitted he has lost touch with his former secretary, who fled the country after the pork barrel scam was exposed.

    “I’m very confident that my former secretary will not turn against me. Besides, she has nothing to do with this. She was also implicated by the whistleblowers but they don’t have proof,” he said.

    The senator belittled Tuason’s testimony, saying it contained fabricated stories fed to her by the DOJ to make sure that it would fit the stories of the pork barrel scam witnesses.

    While the President did not name the new witnesses, there were reports that one of them was Labayen.

    Other likely witnesses mentioned were former Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general Dennis Cunanan, Rhodora Mendoza, former vice president for administration of the National Agri-Business Corp. (NAGCOR) and Victor Roman Cacal, former vice president of the National Agribusiness Corporation, a government-owned and controlled agency under the Department of Agriculture.

    They are all respondents in the graft and corruption complaints filed by the DOJ before the Ombudsman last year in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam.

    State witness
    Private prosecutor Levito Baligod on Thursday confirmed that Cunanan applied to be considered a state witness.

    Baligod said Cunanan will confirm the signatures of Revilla in the documents presented as evidence in the complaint.

    “He makes validation calls on Revilla’s signatures and if the senator’s staff members are authorized to sign for him,” Baligod said.

    Revilla denied he owned the signatures on the documents presented by witnesses before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

    Cunanan’s application has yet to be acted upon by Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, who will make the recommendation to de Lima.

    Baligod said Cunanan applied for the Witness Protection Program in March 2013, months before Luy and his companions exposed the pork barrel scam.

    He said Cunanan knows more about the scam than other witnesses like Marina Sula and Merlina Sunas, former employees of Napoles.

    “Cunanan’s affidavit is stronger compared to the weight of the evidence contained in the affidavits of these three whistleblowers,” Baligod said in an interview with radio dzBB.

    He said Cunanan will detail the participation of some implementing agencies such as the TRC in the pork barrel misuse.

    Cunanan will refute Revilla’s claims that he did not benefit from the scam, Baligod said.

    Based on Cunanan’s affidavit, Baligod said there were instances when the former TRC official personally talked to Revilla to confirm pork-funded transactions.

    He said Cunanan recalled that at one time, he was scolded by the senator because of the slow processing of his endorsement letters to allocate his pork barrel fund to Napoles’ fake NGOs.

    “So what his (Cunanan) office did was to rush the processing of Revilla’s request the whole day and they even worked overnight on December 23,” Baligod said.

    According to the COA report, at least 10 NGOs linked to Napoles received more than P2 billion in pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2010.

    With Ritchie Horario

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    14 Comments

    1. Sigurado marami pang lalabas na tetestigo laban kina Revilla,Estrada,JPE.Walang wala na silang lusot pa

    2. WE NEED A CONVICTION MR. PRESIDENT. The people are not anymore believing, a juan de la Cruz can be convicted but not a powerful political person in the Philippines. Justice in the Philippines is twisted. We already have a person pointing his finger to the senators and yet those senators still going to the senate and still can be seen smiling on TV. In other countries, these people are already suspended or out of their job. Bobby Dacer’s mastermind still at large, even the killers of your father is still around..
      Mr. Pnoy, no one wants to believe anymore.

    3. joebert banderas on

      kapag hindi mapaparusahan ang mga corrupt na nanunungkulan lalong lomakas ang loob ng iba para magnakaw at hindi lang milyon bilyon napo ang pinaguusapan dito sana nobody is above the law para umunlad na ang pinas

    4. JPE is smart! He used Gigi Reyes as front so that times comes like this nobody can pinpoint him directly; unlike Revilla and Estrada, anyway that shows what is brain and brainless! but at the end of the day justice will prevail, hope they all end up to jail…

    5. naiinip na ang mga tao. dapat may conviction na. justice for our taxes which just turned into the pocket of dirty politicians. matagal na ito ah. kailan pa tayo magkaroon ng malinis ne burukrasya. kailan pa na ang mga pilipinong botante ay hindi mabibili ng pera. kailan pa mawawala ang dagdag bawas sa eleksyon. kailan pa makaraos ang mga mahihirap na mamayan sa bansang ito. Panginooon tulungan mo kami. Amen.

    6. With nothing to show in terms of anything in his presidency and with the GMA cases hanging by a thread, Noy tuwid wants nothing less than a conviction within his term of any of the three: Bong, Jinggoy and Johnny. With a little over two years in his term he must be hallucinating again about his greatness.

    7. dapat kasama sya doon, dahil sya ang nangbibiogay ng suhol sa mga senador at congresista. at galing pa sa DAP. what a hypocrite man.

    8. Roldan Guerrero on

      What about your yearly PORK BARREL of 1 Trillion PHP Mr. President? Clamor for audits are being requested by groups but COA refuses to do it. I just hope you will answer for all of your abuses once you get out of Malacanyang.

    9. JPE is a good lawyer who fully understand the importance of the basic rule.Guilt in criminal law must be beyond reasonable doubt. If they cannot prove it on such weight and sufficiency, they lose. They better get back to the basics.

    10. Rey Rogelio G. Manalo, Jr. on

      ○○○ Personally, I would rather go for a PORK BARBECUE

      ○○○ Than stay with a PORK BARRELCUE ….. Yum-yum-yum !! … ((^_^)) ☻☺☻

    11. “I’m very confident that my former secretary will not turn against me”

      Estrada is a comedian too! If he is fully innocent of charges, whatever his ex-secretary might say to the authorities would not be an action of turning her back on him.

      Estrada, where is your honor? Look at Gen Reyes, he lost his, but regained it at the end. Gen Reyes is calling on you!