Government officials who profited from the pork barrel scam should stop making denials, admit their wrongdoing and return their loot, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on Saturday.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on Catholics to pray “for the conversion” of the culprits in the scam and courage for the witnesses.
“Let those who are at fault come out and admit their wrongdoings rather than hurling denials and counter-accusations, thus muddling the issue to the confusion of the people. What is stolen must be returned,” Villegas said.
“Let the concern of all be the common good—that people do not lose trust on the institutions of governance and that there may be just restitution of the public money lost,” he added.
While the unprecedented scandal has angered and confused the people, the country will eventually heal as the people do not lose hope and fight to overcome all forms of evil “by the power of good,” he said.
“We will see the light beyond this crisis. It will make us stronger and more mature. Let us not stop hoping, praying and being concerned and vigilant. Our government is what we make of it,” Villegas said.
The CBCP head stressed the need for the people to be more involved in politics in order to ensure that elected officials govern well. In the same vein, he said government officials should not abuse public trust.
Villegas said it is fortunate that he scam was exposed because it started the search for truth.
“This also invites all of us to be vigilant over our public officials. There should be public accountability over public trust,” he said.
At the same time, he pleaded with the media to be fair so that the names of people who had no hand in the anomaly would not be sullied. The bishop noted that even those who have been implicated in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers have the right to be heard.
A list supposedly prepared by Janet Lim Napoles named several senators and members of the House of Representatives among government officials who reportedly received millions in pesos of kickbacks from ghost projects funded by PDAF.
So far, only senators Juan ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla have been charged at the Office of the Ombudsman. A plunder complaint is expected to be filed against the three senators soon.
But Malacañang said Napoles should finish her testimony before making demands from the government.
Napoles had applied to be a state witness. Recently, she also asked that her children be spared from prosecution.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said Napoles has no right to make such demands.
“Instead of making such demands, she should first finish and submit her affidavit in court,” Valte said in a radio interview.
Napoles is being detained on a serious illegal detention complaint filed by her former employee, Benhur Luy.
Barzaga agreed with Valte.
“As the alleged architect of the pork barrel scam, Napoles does not have the right to choose against whom charges shall be filed. Consequently, her request to spare her children from prosecution has no basis in fact and in law and therefore certainly misplaced,” the lawmaker said.
Napoles has four children with husband Jimmy—Jo Christine, James Christopher, Christian, and Jeane. The latter was widely criticized for her ostentatious display of wealth after she bragged about her expensive possessions on social media.
“Criminal charges will be filed against whoever the evidence will point to. If there is evidence proving that Napoles’ children participated in the grand conspiracy to steal billions of public funds in the pork barrel scam, justice demands that her children should be included in the criminal complaint,” Barzaga said.