An alleged draft affidavit of Janet Lim Napoles, tagged as the brains behind the P10- billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam, cannot be considered an airtight evidence against the perpetrators of the racket, at least for now.
House leaders made the assessment a day after The Manila Times, citing an unnamed, highly placed source, reported that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is deliberately withholding the disclosure of Napoles’ alleged draft affidavit reportedly containing a list of lawmakers who benefited from the PDAF or pork barrel scam because the government is sanitizing the list to exclude President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s allies.
Whistleblowers have pointed to Napoles as the architect of the scam, in which the discretionary or pork barrel funds of lawmakers were released to bogus entities masquerading as livelihood centers owned by Napoles.
In return for funneling their funds to Napoles’ fake non-government organizations, the lawmakers got huge kickbacks.
“The sanitization [of the list]is always a possibility, but the release of an untested and uninvestigated list from Napoles will surely destroy reputations of public officials whose names might be erroneously included in the list,” House Deputy Majority Floor Leader Sherwin Tugna said.
“The proper procedure is for the DOJ [Department of Justice] to investigate the individuals within a specific short period of time, file a complaint in the DOJ and release the list of names of officials charged,” Tugna, a lawyer, added.
Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City, vice chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability, backed Tugna.
“I don’t think that she [de Lima]is sanitizing it. The Justice secretary is only making sure that there is evidence to back up the allegations. It will be totally unfair to everyone to release the list prematurely without evidence to back it up,” Treñas, also a lawyer, said.
“Once the list has been validated and evidence is available to back it up, I will be among those who will ask that it be released,” Treñas, a member of the ruling Liberal Party headed by President Aquino, added.
Before the Supreme Court outlawed the PDAF in November 2013, each member of the House of Representatives was entitled to P70 million in pork barrel annually for their constituents. Each senator had an allocation of P200 million per year.
Former senator Panfilo Lacson, now presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, has warned de Lima against sanitizing the document to favor Palace allies.
The Office of the Ombudsman already approved the filing of plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan against three senators who allegedly pocketed kickbacks from the scam: Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
If de Lima made public the unsanitized Napoles list and names of Aquino allies are on it, an impeachment complaint against President Aquino just might be filed, an outspoken Catholic bishop said also on Tuesday.
In a weekly Church-organized forum in Manila, retired Lingayen-Dagupan
Archbishop Oscar Cruz said a group has already prepared one such complaint, which is “just waiting for a way [to push it forward].”
He refused to reveal the name of the group.
Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the group may be forced to file the impeachment complaint before de Lima bares the Napoles list if the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds controlled by Malacanang.
Estrada had claimed that the huge sums given to senators who voted to convict former chief justice Renato Corona came from DAP.