SENATORS implicated in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam on Tuesday said they are not bothered by the supposed plan of Janet Lim-Napoles to spill the beans but warned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima not to pressure the businesswoman into implicating them in the anomaly.
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who returned on Tuesday from a visit to the United States, said he received information that de Lima is pressuring Napoles to confess and to pin him and two other senators down. He was referring to Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon
‘Bong” Revilla Jr., who were charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Estrada noted that as long as de Lima will not influence Napoles, he does not have anything to worry about.
The senator, who arrived with his two children on board Cathay Pacific Air Flight CX913, said he did not want to extend his stay in the United States.
His wife, Precy, returned home on Monday morning via Philippine Airlines Flight PR103.
“I will face all the charges kung talagang desidido silang tuluyan kami [if they are decided on getting us]. Wala tayong magagawa [We cannot do anything about it],” Estrada said, apparently referring to government officials bent on pinning him down over the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scandal.
Estrada went to the United States for a medical check-up for his knee where the attending doctor told him that his knee had “hidden fracture.” He was told to return to the US in July for further treatment.
The camp of Revilla agreed with Estrada, saying if Napoles gives a statement that implicates the three senators in the scam, it would only mean that she was forced into doing it.
Joel Bodegon, legal counsel of Revilla, noted that Napoles had testified that she had no transactions with the senators when she appeared at the Senate last year.
“If ever she gives a statement to the contrary, that would mean that she was forced to do so at the sacrifice of the truth—what with all the cases filed against her and her family and
whatever other pressures that have been brought to bear upon her,” Bodegon said.
Meanwhile, Estrada said there was “something fishy” behind de Lima’s actions. He noted that the Justice chief earlier ruled out making Napoles a state witness.
“Before, they were saying that Napoles is not eligible to turn state witness, but now they are considering her to be one,” he told reporters after attending the commencement exercises of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila held at Philippine International Convention Center.
In his speech during the ceremony, Estrada maintained his innocence.
“I never received or pocketed any amount from Mrs. Napoles, Mrs. [Ruby] Tuason, or any person associated with her or the non-government organizations. I did not steal a single centavo from public funds or from my PDAF,” he said.
Estrada also criticized some of his colleagues in the Senate who are more concerned about their political ambition than respecting the rights of their embattled colleagues.
“Do they have to do it at our expense? Do we have to be the whipping boy of their misguided ambitions?” the senator said, but he did not name names.
But to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Napoles’s decision to bare all could be a sign of desperation.
But he said the jailed businesswoman is not qualified to be a state witness.
“How could the person who put up the infrastructure for PDAF graft be qualified as state witness? Isn’t the architect of the whole scheme the most guilty, hence disqualified from being state witness?” Pimentel stressed.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said Napoles can be made a state witness if she will not withhold any information and if she will return the billions of pesos that she amassed from anomalous pork barrel transactions.
Sen. Bam Aquino, meanwhile, said it is up to the Department of Justice to evaluate the businesswoman’s testimony and decide accordingly.
“Hopefully, Janet Napoles will tell the whole truth and shed further light on the pork barrel scam. We mustn’t forget that this scam cost the Filipino people billions of pesos that should have gone to our poor countrymen,” he added.
With Benjie L. Vergara