A group of lawmakers on Wednesday challenged Cabinet members and lawmakers implicated by Janet Lim Napoles in the pork barrel to reveal their bank accounts.
The House Minority bloc made the call a day after President Benigno Aquino 3rd belittled the expanded affidavit submitted by Napoles to the Department of Justice on Monday. The affidavit named 20 former and incumbent senators, 100 congressmen, several Cabinet members and other players in the anomaly involving the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Among them were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva.
“It would be simpler if they just open their bank accounts [to scrutiny]. That would be setting a good example because with the bank accounts disclosed, you would have the necessary documentary evidence if Napoles really transferred a certain amount of millions to lawmakers and Cabinet members,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said in a news conference.
“If the bank documents show that the fund transfer really happened, that evidence will be sufficient to convict,” Colmenares, a lawyer, added.
Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela party-list backed Colmenares, saying the opening of bank accounts is tantamount to a lifestyle check.
“The lifestyle check should not be limited to those people sitting on the opposite side of the fence. If you are sincere with your advocacy of anti-corruption, you will let justice take its course,” Ilagan added.
Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list chided Aquino for taking up the cudgels for some members of his Cabinet.
“If these people were any other government employee, they would have been already slapped with preventive suspension. These are serious allegations. Besides, the President should not be the one clearing people,” Tinio said.
“The President should withhold his judgment. Why is he too quick in casting doubt on the list just because his allies have been mentioned? The President is already undermining the case of the government with his pronouncements,” Colmenares said.
But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said the officials Napoles implicated should not worry over the allegations.
“We are still in the publicity stage. It is our bad luck that we are politicians and so we are affected by trial by publicity. But a typical person should not worry about trial by publicity because there is still a need to produce further evidence and back up all these allegations,” Belmonte told reporters.
“We cannot just take Mrs. Napoles’ word. Everything at this stage is just talk. Let’s wait for further evidence,” he said.
Belmonte issued the statement after opposition lawmakers Ferdinand Romualdez, Jonathan dela Cruz and Joselito Atienza demanded the resignation of the three Cabinet members linked by Napoles.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said government officials in the “Napolist” need not resign.
“All those officials from both the executive and the legislative who were mentioned in the affidavits of Janet Napoles are presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” Barzaga noted.
“If we are to treat the Napoles affidavits as gospel truth, then the sauce for the gander will also be the sauce for the goose. Napoles would then make all government officials hostage to her allegations. Certainly, the demands of public interest cannot countenance such anomalous situation,” he said.
Alcala also appealed to his critics to carefully study Napoles’ affidavits before jumping to conclusions.
In a statement coursed through DA spokesman and Undersecretary Emerson Palad, Alcala said the affidavits will reveal that the DA did not deviate from the implementation of PDAF-funded projects.
The DA chief had repeatedly denied knowing Napoles or “conniving with her or any of her agents and non-government organizations.”
“I am sure that I never dealt with her, even during my incumbency as a congressman,” Alcala said.
With James Konstantin Galvez