The Department of Justice (DOJ) is readying charges against lawmakers whose Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” were funneled to bogus non-government organizations run by Janet Napoles.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made the disclosure after she graced the launch of Book 1 of House Bill 2300 which will replace the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
“We cannot mention names at this point because of the pending investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). We are still in the process of validation but we were already able to confirm the involvement of some lawmakers, both from the House (of Representatives) and the Senate. The filing will be dictated by evidence and will be done in a few weeks,” de Lima told reporters.
The NBI investigation is under the supervision of the Justice Secretary.
De Lima also refused to say how many lawmakers will be charged or their political affiliations. She stressed that investigators are not training their guns on the political foes of the Aquino administration.
“There is no such standard of segregating people. We don’t care if you are from the administration or opposition. When we start filing charges, then you would know that it [political affiliation]is not the benchmark,” she said.
“The political affiliation is never a criterion on whether you should be subject to investigation or not. The NBI does not engage in any partisan investigation and are not affected by political color,” de Lima added.
She said the NBI is under strict orders to keep the result of its probe confidential. The team that is conducting the inquiry has been expanded to include personnel of the NBI’s Anti-Fraud and Legal divisions.
De Lima also said that the DOJ will also seek the freezing of the bank accounts of Napoles, who allegedly enriched herself from the lawmakers’ PDAF.
“We cannot be commenting on the fine details about that at this point because of the ongoing investigation. It would not be advisable to announce such moves in advance, but we are working on it,” de Lima told reporters.
In securing a freeze order, the Justice department would have to make a request before the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). The AMLC will then evaluate if such action has merit before going to court.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas Cavite earlier urged the DOJ to push for the freezing of Napoles’ assets, considering that the Justice department has already placed Napoles and her children under the Bureau of Immigration watch list.
“They should file a petition for the issuance of freeze order in so far as the
bank accounts of Napoles and other NGOs are concerned and if necessary, file a writ of attachment against Napoles and her cohorts on the basis of the testimonies of their whistleblowers,” Barzaga, Chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, said.
“Without taking these legal steps, the government may not be able to recover anything from Napoles. It would not be farfetched to conclude that right now, there might already be some disposition of her properties,” he added.
De Lima earlier called on the 97 mayors whose signatures were reportedly forged by a company owned by Napoles to make it appear that these mayors benefited from the P900 million Malampaya fund to come out and clear their names.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church appealed to politicians to visit squatters or informal settlers so that they would have an idea on where to use their ‘pork barrel”.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the controversy over the misuse of PDAF is “heartbreaking.”
“I am inviting them (politicians) to visit the informal settlers and see the people sleeping on the streets,” Tagle said at the press briefing on the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
“Let us bring back the dignity of public service by bringing the good news of the Lord into the world of politics,” he said.
With a report from Robertzon Ramirez