Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago wants her colleagues implicated in the misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) charged with plunder and jailed for life.
Santiago on Wednesday warned that the pork barrel scam could trigger destabilization moves against the Aquino administration if the government fails to punish government officials, including senators and congressmen, who poured public funds into bogus non-government organizations.
She said the news reports about the anomaly allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles, and the affidavits of people who witnessed the implementation of the scam, can be used as evidence against the legislators and other government officials.
“The newspaper reports were based on affidavits executed by eye witnesses before the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), that constitutes evidence already,” Santiago told reporters.
She said that regardless of who are involved in the controversy, the government should file cases against them so as not to further anger the people.
The recent million people march at the Quirino Grandstand, she noted, is enough proof that the people wants the government to act.
Failure to charge officials linked to the scam will send the message that legislators are “untouchable” and this would not be good for the present administration.
Santiago prodded the task force composed of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA) to start filing charges since it already has the affidavits of witnesses.
She said senators and congressmen cannot invoke immunity since such privilege only covers offenses with penalty not exceeding a jail term of six years.
“These whistleblowers—or at least most of them—appear to be eye witnesses; their testimony has strong weight in law and evidence,” Santiago told reporters. “The strongest evidence for prosecution is always the testimony of an eye witness.”
“The moment senators have cases filed against them, immediately they will have to be detained,” Santiago said.
She said she wants “life imprisonment and beyond that if possible” for those found guilty.
She said even lawmakers aged 70 or up can be charged, even if they are exempted from being detained.
Asked if she would visit any of her fellow senators in case any of them get detained, she said: “I won’t visit them, but I will send them CDs of my speeches.”
Malacañang on Wednesday assured the public that Cabinet members will not interfere in the pork barrel investigation.
”You can be assured that no Cabinet official is interfering with the investigation being conducted by NBI,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
He said Palace officials were not aware of the result of the NBI investigation, or who will be charged.
”We are waiting for the NBI investigation report. The only person who is aware fully of the NBI’s case build-up is Secretary Leila de Lima,” he said.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE VALENTE AND PNA