SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano, a key administration ally, on Thursday said he will seek an explanation from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on why it had recommended the acquittal of pork barrel scam brains Janet Napoles in a case for illegal detention.
“On the Napoles case, like you, I’m also asking for an explanation… Like you, I also want the [Solicitor General] to answer. But I guarantee you that the President will not allow any corruption to happen during the administration. And he will not absolve those who were corrupt in past administrations,” Cayetano said at the sidelines of a Senate inquiry into the bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration.
Cayetano was reacting to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report that the new lawyers at the OSG had filed with the Court of Appeals a manifestation recommending the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention filed by her second cousin, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The manifestation cited evidence that Luy, a former aide of Napoles, was free to move even if he was staying in a retreat house.
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the scheme in which lawmakers got kickbacks from the Priority Development Assistance Fund, also known as pork barrel, by funneling the money through bogus non-governmental organizations.
Cayetano blamed the previous administration for building a weak case against Napoles and letting some personalities go scot-free.
“Why is it that the cases filed during the Aquino administration were weak? We foresaw that at that time because the big cases like ‘Hello Garci’ (2004 election fraud) were neglected. Here with Napoles, many were excluded from the cases filed by the previous administration,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel however believes there is “very strong evidence” against Napoles in her pork barrel-related cases.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said this as he defended the OSG’s move, which he said would not affect the strength of pork barrel scam cases filed against Napoles.
“It will never be affected because these are two different cases,” Panelo told reporters.
He reiterated that it was Solicitor General Jose Calida’s duty as the top government lawyer to review cases.
“If upon review of the case, the OSG feels that it has no evidence to get a conviction [and]that there is [no]proof beyond reasonable doubt, then it is his duty under the Constitution and the law to state his position that there is no such case against the accused,” he said.
“Otherwise you will be creating injustice putting an innocent person behind bars,” Panelo added.
Malacañang on Thursday belied claims that Calida was lawyering for Napoles.
“He’s just simply trying to correct want he thinks, what he sees, what he perceives is something that needs to be rectified,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news conference.