More than a hundred lawmakers were estimated to be among those involved in the pork barrel scam, based on former senator Panfilo Lacson’s statement that their number was enough to constitute a quorum.
Lacson made the statement to reporters a day after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she has spoken with Janet Lim Napoles, who provided the list of names.
The senators and representatives reportedly received commissions from Napoles, who had been tagged as the brains of the pork barrel scam.
Lacson, now the presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, said he was given documents containing the names of senators and congressmen who had transactions with the jailed businesswoman.
He said the number of the lawmakers involved was enough to constitute a quorum, “so to speak.”
The former senator recounted that an emissary of Napoles approached him last month and told him that the businesswoman was ready to “tell all.” The messenger asked Lacson if he could meet Napoles’ husband and children.
During their meeting, Lacson said Napoles’ husband Jimmy handed him several documents and drafts of her affidavit containing narrations of facts and events based on her recollection of the transactions involving projects funded by priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers.
“The documents contain dates and SARO (special allotment release order) numbers as well as her [Napoles] narration on how the kickbacks are distributed, the coordination with those involved as well as the process,” Lacson noted.
Lacson denied reports that 19 senators had transactions with Napoles but said if these senators gathered together, they would constitute a quorum.
“There are many names there, not only members of the Senate, but also of the House [of Representatives],” he told a radio interview.
Lacson also noted that the list also included the names of lawmakers critical of the pork barrel.
He said the Napoles family chose to meet with him because he was not involved in the controversy because he did not touch his pork barrel allocation when he was a senator.
But the senator said although the documents provided by Napoles contained crucial information about the PDAF operations, he believes that the businesswoman is still holding back some information and this is the reason why he decided not to present the documents to President Benigno Aquino 3rd or Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
The former senator added that Napoles also provided details on the amount received by each lawmaker and other government officials involved in the PDAF operations.
Most of the lawmakers got 50-percent cuts from every PDAF transaction.
Lacson said lawmakers who were never linked to the PDAF scam were also on the list.
When asked if senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla got the highest kickbacks, he replied that there were some lawmakers who got even bigger commissions.
“The documents are not yet complete, all I can say is that the three [senators]received huge amounts, but it seems there are those who have not been mentioned who received bigger amounts,” Lacson said.
Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago asked that the Senate blue ribbon committee summon Napoles once more so she can testify.
Santiago said although Napoles consistently refused to answer questions by invoking her right against self-incrimination when she was first summoned last year, the senator believes it would be different this time.
“Today’s media reports that Miss Napoles has not only asseverated the criminal liability of three senators named in the recent partial report submitted by our committee but it appears that [she]has also implicated some 19 other senators,” Santiago said in her letter addressed to Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the blue ribbon panel.
Santiago proposed that Napoles’ case be given priority over that of Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, who was accused of accepting millions from Napoles in behalf of her former boss, Enrile.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said Napoles is welcome to tell everything but it does not mean that her revelations will spare her from criminal liability.
Cayetano added that Napoles is not the least guilty having played a major role in the scam, thus she is not qualified to be a state witness.
No fear or favor
But whether Napoles turns state witness, there will be “no fear or favor” on whoever will be dragged into the anomaly, including officials allied with Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said also on Wednesday.
While clearly passing the buck to the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding Napoles’ request to become a state witness, the Palace seems to be having a change of heart about the issue.
In February, President Aquino said Napoles was at the center of the controversy and cannot be treated as the least guilty, which is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to turn state witness.
But during a news briefing, Coloma reasoned out that the President made the statement at a time when Napoles “was not willing to talk.”
Although he dismissed the possibility of Napoles being considered a witness rather than the mastermind as “speculative at this point,” he said the DOJ has been “re-tasked” to come up with a recommendation.
Coloma assured that justice will be fair to all those involved, regardless of political affiliation.
“The focus of the government is on the quest for truth and bringing to the bar of justice all those involved in the misuse of public funds,” he said.
“The President has time and again said the evidence itself must provide the direction.
We have time and again pointed out that the symbol of justice in this country is a blindfolded lady carrying the scales of justice, and that means that there is no fear or favor in the exercise of our responsibility to bring to the bar of justice those who are involved in the alleged misuse of public funds,” Coloma added.
With Joel M. Sy Egco and Ricardo G. Patriarca