The Senate’s blue ribbon committee starts today its closed-door caucus on the list prepared by Janet Lim Napoles naming lawmakers who profited from the pork barrel scam, as former Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned that the list could ruin the chamber.
In a radio interview, Lacson acknowledged that the list would further erode public confidence in the Senate once it is made public, but he said he is willing to submit the documents in an executive session.
Lacson had said that Napoles’ husband Jimmy gave him the list along with other documents that detail how the scam was carried out.
Lacson, who never touched his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when he was a senator, sees the release of the list as a national security issue.
“The Senate may collapse if the
Lacson had said Napoles named 16 senators, three Cabinet officials and dozens of congressmen who received huge kickbacks or commissions from projects funded by the PDAF.
“The scam,” he added, “started in 2000 and included former and incumbent members of the Senate and Congress.” He refused to identify these lawmakers.
Lacson said it is still the senators who will ultimately decide whether to make the list public.
Already, two senators are calling for the release of the list and documents.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Cayetano over the weekend said he will attend the caucus and will insist that the list be made public. Cayetano cited the need for a public hearing and to invite those concerned who are privy to records of the case.
The blue ribbon panel, which is headed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, earlier looked into the reported highly irregular diversion and disbursement of the PDAF from the Senate and House of Representatives.
Cayetano insisted that the pork barrel scam must be investigated and Napoles and government officials implicated to the scam summoned to testify. Among the officials he identified were the heads of the Budget and Justice departments, Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Sen. Francis Escudero stood firm on his decision to have the documents released to allay speculations that “they are being withheld.”
Escudero reacted to a statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the Senate has to compel her to make the list public, saying, “I think it’s unfair for Secretary de Lima to say [that, . . . she can do it anytime she wants to.) She already announced to the press that she has the list. Why then [require]the Senate to compel her to make public the list?”
De Lima had announced that she, too, was handed the list during a five-hour meeting with Napoles at the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak) where the businesswoman had surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus on March 31.
So far, only Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla have been charged at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Lacson added that the Senate inquiry of the pork barrel scam “could even be held in a small room at the hospital for the convenience of Ms. Napoles.” The businesswoman is still confined at OsMak.
The opposition coalition in the House of Representatives on Sunday batted for a thorough investigation of lawmakers who are reportedly on the Napoles list.
Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general, said the probe must be honest, objective and above-board.
Tiangco expressed disappointment with the alleged indifference of the House leadership to calls for a parallel inquiry on the pork barrel scam.
He had filed House Resolution 1082 requesting Congress, in aid of legislation, to conduct a full investigation based on an affidavit executed by Napoles.
But House leaders and administration allies said such a probe would only duplicate efforts of the Senate.
“What are the administration allies afraid of? It is the integrity and reputation of the legislature that are at stake here, and we’re just here on the sidelines silently watching the show,” Tiangco said.
If the Aquino administration is serious in its campaign to rid the government of corruption, Congress must do its share in exposing and castigating even administration allies who have misused government funds.
Tiangco’s resolution cites “a compelling need for the House of Representatives to protect the integrity of every member by conducting an investigation and directing the Justice secretary to disclose the affidavit of Napoles containing the names of lawmakers and government officials identified by Napoles in her sworn statement.”
Other members of Congress have filed similar resolutions urging the House committees on public accountability and ethics to look into the pork barrel scam, which they described as “criminal plunder.”