WITH the ever-growing list of suspects in the pork barrel scam, the case may far outlive the terms of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and two more future leaders of the country, according to lawyer Raji Mendoza.
Mendoza, the legal counsel of pork barrel scam principal witness Benhur Luy, told
The Manila Times in an interview that it would take at least a decade to hear the case as each of those implicated by Janet Lim-Napoles in the anomaly is likely to avail of all their rights and privileges under the law, assisted by excellent lawyers.
President Aquino suspects that Napoles may be trying to save herself by naming more pork suspects to prolong the case. He said the longer the list of respondents, the longer it will take to try the case.
“I think the trial will surpass President Aquino’s term and even go beyond the terms of two more presidents,” he added.
The lawyer was reacting to the filing of Napoles’ expanded affidavit, which contains the names of 20 senators and 100 congressmen, many of whom are incumbent, who allegedly benefited from their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Mendoza explained that with such a very long list of suspects, many may lose interest.
“Another problem lies with COA [Commission on Audit]. Much of the evidence needed will come from them and up to now, they are yet to update their reports on previous scams,” the lawyer noted.
“As of the moment, we will keep our aces up our sleeve,” Mendoza said, apparently hinting that they still have bombshells to drop on the pork barrel issue.
Last week, he expressed dismay over reports that some people in the government are working to admit Napoles to the Witness Protection Program. Mendoza said Luy and the other whistleblowers do not welcome such move and that they will oppose it.
The President said the existence of several versions of “Napolist” could be Napoles’ strategy to escape prosecution. He also noted that it is possible that the businesswoman wants to prolong the case until it is “forgotten.”
“Is 25? Is it 14? Is it 11? [But] be that as it may, I told you from the start, it is possible that she is muddling the case since more and more people will be investigated. In the end, even with all these investigations, it is possible that no case will be filed,” Aquino said..
He also suspects that Napoles’ sworn affidavit that was given to the Senate on Monday was intended to be used as a smokescreen, a tactic that will make the process a protracted one.
“Hindi kaya mas nasa interes niya na palabuin iyong kwento, patagalin ang proseso at baka naman dumating ang panahon madaan sa limot. Malay ninyo may nagsabi na rin sa kanya, ‘Habang tumatagal ito, gumaganda sa iyo. Bumabawas iyong muhi ng tao sa iyo [It’s in her interest to confuse the people, delay the process hoping that the case will be forgotten after some time. Who knows someone may have told her that she stands to benefit from the delay of the case. As time passes, the people will hate her less],” Aquino said.
In a separate interview, political analyst Ramon Casiple said he sees danger in the submission of the Napoles list, especially if charges are actually filed against all those who are implicated.
“At present, it is nothing but a list. However, if they are eventually charged and warrants are issued, Congress will lack quorum. It will be paralyzed,” Casiple also told The Times.
He explained that taken at face value, the involvement of several active and former lawmakers and some Cabinet officials in the scam already casts doubts on the Aquino administration’s mantra of daang matuwid [straight path].
“If the government fails to handle this situation, it may face bigger problems ahead. Some might even use this for their political ends as we near 2016. We may see a lot of [loyalty shifts]as some of those involved may strike a deal with the administration.
But by doing so, the ability to govern is further dampened,” Casiple pointed out.
He said there are two possible outcomes from the Napoles episode. First, a paralyzed legislature, which could mean that no important measures such as the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Freedom of Information Bill can be acted upon and, second, adventurous sectors may resort to extra-constitutional means to resolve these issues.
“These are only possibilities,” he clarified. But when asked if the Philippines is on the verge of a social and political turmoil like the one being experienced in Thailand, Casiple replied, “We are within the realm of that scenario.”
The analyst also noted that the public is already agitated and wary of what might occur after Napoles’ supposed revelations.
Meanwhile, activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra said several groups are preparing for a “confrontation” with the government on the pork scam. He added that they are planning to stage a massive rally on June 12 to dramatize their discontent on the “snail-paced” movement of the pork case.
“It’s been almost a year when the scam broke out. Our position is that all must be jailed,” he told The Times.
According to Guevarra, they may consider launching a RIO campaign, which stands for Resign, Impeach or Oust.
“We are discussing this. The government must now do something to avert any crisis. They can start by prosecuting those involved in the scam immediately,” he said.