The Aquino administration’s planned plunder case against prominent names in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam lacks documentary evidence, the opposition said Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan and Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list made the criticism a day after it was learned that the Department of Justice is readying plunder charges against Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, among other lawmakers and their staff members allegedly involved in the transfer of P10-billion PDAF to fake non-government organizations ran by Janet Napoles.
Zamora and Bello, both lawyers, noted that the government cannot pin down these Senators with the accusers’ statement that the PDAF money granted to fake beneficiaries was coursed thru the offices of the senators.
“We need more documentary evidence. You can’t just say that such person went to a senator or congressman and delivered a certain amount of money [as kickback]such as P10 million. That won’t be enough. They should make sure the case against is airtight,” Zamora, who served as Executive Secretary to former President Joseph Estrada, which was convicted of plunder in 2007, said in a press conference.
“Witnesses can retract their statements anytime. That’s why it is important for the government to make sure that the affidavits of the witnesses are linked so that if ever the time comes that a certain witness retracts, the case would still hold up in court,” Bello, who served as Justice secretary during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo who is now facing plunder charges, added.
Zamora was particularly wary of Enrile whom he described as a smart and very competent lawyer.
“You can’t pin him by saying that the PDAF money was given to his chief-of-staff. You should be able to prove that they really received the money. Did it reflect in the bank account, for example? They [government authorities]should not be complacent with the rate this is going. Otherwise, they are in for a surprise,” Zamora, a bar topnotcher, stressed.
“If you can only accuse them that a certain amount of money was given to them or their chief-of-staff, then they will all be acquitted. A defense lawyer could just argue that the chief-of-staff can receive it, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the Senator knows about it,” Bello added.
Zamora also pitched that government authorities should look at the nature of the projects funded by the PDAF because the devil is in the details.
“Look at the nature of the projects, too. For one, how can a lawmaker earmark P30 [million]to P50 million for worms? You talk to farmers, mayors who participated in the project. You can already tell from that the amount spent for such worms is very outrageous,” Zamora added.
Zamora was referring to the obscure PDAF-funded projects, which was revealed in the Commission on Audit Report on PDAF spending from 2007 to 2009.