JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima, who is being accused of receiving bribes from pork barrel scam alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, may now be the subject of a “demolition job” by those involved in the anomaly, according to lawyer Raji Mendoza.
Mendoza, the counsel of Benhur Luy, a witness in the P10-billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam, on Wednesday defended the embattled Justice chief, saying his client and the other whistleblowers are satisfied with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“This may be a demolition job against her [de Lima]. So far, the witnesses are satisfied with what the DOJ secretary is doing. They [in the Justice department]provide enough security and at least shoulder [the whistleblowers’]minimal needs,” the lawyer added.
Mendoza’s statements came as Malacanang defended de Lima and other officials of the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who, according to Sandra Cam, received P150 million in bribes from Napoles in exchange for dropping of the serious illegal detention complaint filed against Napoles by Luy.
Cam heads the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines.
De Lima also on Wednesday laughed off the claims without at first directly addressing Cam.
She said some people whom she did not name wanted to destroy her after her former husband, lawyer Plaridel Bohol, and Napoles lawyer Freddie Villamor were linked to an attempt, as learned by The Manila Times, to have the NBI dismiss Luy’s complaint against Napoles.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a text message to The Times, doubted Cam’s claims, saying the former jueteng (an illegal numbers game) witness needs more solid proof to back her claims.
“The relevant issue to ask is: Are [Cam’s] allegations based on concrete evidence that can pass judicial scrutiny?” Coloma said.
Last Wednesday, the president of the whistleblowers group, also accused former NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas of receiving P30 million during a lunch meeting with Bohol, Villamor and Napoles in his office on May 23, 2013.
“Yung iba napunta sa ibang opisyal ng DOJ . . . huwag mong sabihin dito na walang kinalaman dito si Secretary de Lima [The rest of the money went to other DOJ officials. And don’t tell me that Secretary de Lima had nothing to do with this],” Cam told the weekly Ciudad Fernandina forum.
She cited two resolutions issued by the DOJ on the serious illegal detention complaint against Napoles—the first on June 10, 2013 that dismissed the charges against the businesswoman and the second issued months later that found probable cause to file charges against Napoles at the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
In that first resolution, the DOJ, through assistant state prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, junked the complaint against Napoles and her brother.
Luy claimed that Napoles detained him in her condominium unit at Pacific Plaza Tower in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City in Metro Manila to prevent him from coming out and revealing information about the pork barrel scam.
When the DOJ held a second preliminary investigation months later, it reversed its earlier resolution and ordered the filing of charges against Napoles.
The businesswoman questioned the resolution at the Court of Appeals but the appellate court upheld the DOJ action, noting that prosecutors presented detailed findings to back up the filing of a complaint against Napoles in court.
Meanwhile, a highly-placed source at the NBI expressed suspicion that the supposed smear job against de Lima and the DOJ could be the handiwork of pork barrel suspects in connivance with two former NBI officials who were sacked by the Justice secretary for alleged wrongdoings.
The source said some of the details pointed out by Cam were similar to those raised by the two officials in the aftermath of their sacking.
“It’s too early to tell but we have strong reason to believe that indeed they have connived already,” he told The Times in a separate interview.
Last March, President Benigno Aquino 3rd sacked NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala for still unclear reasons.
De Lima approved their removal on reports that the two NBI officials were linked to the pork barrel scam.
Lawyer Ricardo Pangan Jr. replaced Esmeralda and lawyer Antonio Pagatpat took over Lasala’s post.
Last year, de Lima said some deputy directors of the NBI should have resigned instead of then-NBI Director Rojas, who quit his post after Aquino remarked that there were “less trustworthy” officials at the bureau.
In defending herself against Cam’s claims, the Justice secretary said those who are trying to destroy her are also destroying the DOJ and the NBI.
According to her, the supposed demolition job against her is doomed.
“Are they trying to dampen my spirit and my will? I don’t think they will succeed if that’s their objective [for me to lose interest in my job]. Go ahead, that’s their right. I will not prevent them from doing that. That’s the prerogative of anyone. That’s the prerogative also of people who would want to sign up. People have different perspectives People have different impressions about me,” she said.
At the moment, de Lima added, the most important thing is that she has the trust of the President and the people.
Addressing Cam this time, she said the whistleblowers group’s head has an agenda that should be unearthed.