Lawmakers are at a loss on how to respond to so many ‘Napolists’ that contain the names of officials who allegedly benefited from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam.
Rep. Rodito Albano of Isabela is mulling a class suit, while House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City (Metro Manila) said lawmakers should file a libel case against media entities that published the lists instead.
House Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao called for the passage of the Right to Reply bill wherein media outfits are mandated to allot the same amount of airtime and space for the public official who has been the subject of a critical report, which is seen by many as encroaching on press freedom.
“Imagine, these things were published without verification. It’s like Freedom of Informative lies. The lists even include those who are already dead. In case [we file]a class suit, maybe we can include those children and spouses of those deceased,” Albano said in a news conference.
“If you are going to pick me as your lawyer, then I would say it would be better to file a libel case individually because lawmakers have different arguments as to why they are not involved in the scam. You file [libel]against reporters, newspapers, publishers and even those whistleblowers on the scam. Let’s not forget that the whistleblowers are the guilty parties. That’s what you need to do,” Zamora said.
Aggabao said the “Napolists” have unfairly maligned members of Congress.
“Public officials are flayed left and right. We may just have to revisit the Right to Reply. I used to ignore this…until I saw the need for it. There should be a mechanism to clear your name. If it [critical report]appeared on the [newspaper’s] front page, your reply or rebuttal should also appear on the front page,” he added.
Albano, Zamora and Aggabao denied any involvement in the pork scam.
Zamora, however, said the passage of the Right of Reply bill is not a solution.
“That is going to be an unfortunate consequence. Some members of Congress are going to complain [of their inclusion], and they would think they can fight back by instituting a Right to Reply. But we are we are prepared to take a longer view and say no [to that],” he added.
“How do you undo the damage? You can’t unring a bell. If I were to articulate the angst and the sentiments of my colleagues, we all feel bad about what is happening.
But filing a case is not my priority. What we can do is gather documents that will prove our innocence. That would be the best and most effective way to clear our name,” Aggabao, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition allied with the House Majority bloc, said.
“It’s [flurry of lists]a problem and unhappily, we don’t have a solution to it. We’ll just, well, roll with the punches,” he added.
The Office of the Ombudsman already approved the filing of plunder charges against Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in connection with the PDAF mess but cases are yet to be filed before the Sandiganbayan against other lawmakers who also had a hand in the scam.