With too many witnesses offering testimony for the government, the investigation into the pork barrel scheme is beginning to look like a television series, a congressman said on Friday.
“Why do they need so many witnesses? It is becoming more than a television series already. People are so exasperated,” Isabela Rep. Albano said in a text message in day after witnesses Benhur Luy and Technology Resource Center (TRC) Chief Dennis Cunanan gave conflicting statements before the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Cunanan said he signed documents when he was TRC deputy director authorizing Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations to non-government agencies linked to Janet Lim Napoles, the central figure in the pork barrel scandal. But he denied receiving kickbacks from Napoles. Luy, however, said Cunanan visited Napoles’ office to collect his payoff.
Albano belittled Cunanan’s testimony and said he “is of no use [to the prosecution].”
Another congressman, Ako Bicol’s Rodel Batocabe, said the discrepancy in the witnesses’ testimonies could be exploited as a “chink in the government’s prosecution armor.”
“The prosecution should ensure that its witnesses will not contradict one another. Otherwise, people might be tempted to think that the controversy is farce,” Batocabe, a lawmaker allied with the Aquino administration, said in a text message.
“The remedy here is for the government and private prosecutors to sit down and study how to harmonize the seemingly conflicting testimonies of Luy and Cunanan,” Batocabe said.
But for Malacañang, the disagreement in the testimonies of Luy and Cunanan is “normal” and will not weaken the evidence against the implicated lawmakers and other government officials, and Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that only goes to show that the government or the Department of Justice has not been dictating on the witnesses.
“Firstly, it is not really needed for the testimonies of the two to be completely in agreement with each other. It’s possible in any case that witness ‘A’ will be testifying on another aspect of the case while witness ‘B’ will be testifying on another completely different aspect of the same case,” Valte told a press briefing on Friday.
She said the evidence does not only pertain to a witness’ testimony before any investigating body. “But that being said, the final arbiter of the testimonies of the two will be the court that will hear the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman,” Valte added.
She also said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is unfazed by threats from some lawmakers to challenge or block her appointment. “We do not see any indication that the delay, at least, has affected her tenacity. So far, she continues to work with the [same]passion.”
If her appointment is challenged, especially by senators named as respondents in the pork barrel scam, Valte said, de Lima, who was once bypassed by the Commission on Appointments, is ready defend her position before the legislators.