CATHOLIC bishops on Wednesday backed a proposal by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to press jailed businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles into revealing what she knows about the pork barrel anomaly even before she is tried.
One of the prelates, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz, said Napoles’ deposition will help not only during the trial but in the investigation on the extent of the misuse of the Priority development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Cruz said it is important to get Napoles’ testimony now, considering that she suffers from hypertension and diabetes.
“The detainee is not feeling well, her blood pressure fluctuates and this might result in something more serious,” he said.
The idea behind Santiago’s proposal is to ensure that whatever happens to Napoles, the trial will continue, Cruz said. “Even if she’s gone, the case will continue because of her sworn and authorized statement. She should say who, how much and identify the bogus non government organizations.”
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Napoles’ “perpetual” testimony will hasten the trial process.
The prelates are worried that the public might be riveted by the pork barrel controversy now, but their attention could fade after several weeks.
“We might see another Ampatuan case. It was only good at the start. Afterwards, it was just forgotten,” Pabillo said, referring to the massacre of close to 60 people in Maguindanao in November 2009.
Still on the pork barrel scandal, former House deputy speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella denied ever requesting or endorsing the release of P750,000 from his PDAF to the Department of Agriculture in 2011.
“How can I endorse something I absolutely knew nothing about?” said Fuentebella, referring to 15 percent of his P5 million PDAF channeled by the department without his authorization to the Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation, Inc. (KPMFI), an NGO.
He denied knowing or having any link with the NGO.
Fuentebella said no less than Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala admitted in a certification dated Sept. 3, 2013 the department was investigating the supposed release after Fuentebella protested.
Fuentebella said he pressed the Agriculture department into returning to the national government 85 percent of his unused PDAF in 2011. He also demanded that KPMFI return the P750,000 it purportedly used for the Agriculture department’s High Value Crops Development Program.
The amount represented 15 percent of Fuentebella’s 2011 PDAF totaling P5 million under SARO Numbers BMB-G-11-T000000-377 dated April 27, 2011.
“My PDAF utilizations have always been transparent and aboveboard,” Fuentebella said. “I, thus, share our people’s rage and desire to get to the bottom of the allegations that the PDAF of some lawmakers have been diverted and or misused”.