President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday laughed off calls that he sack Cabinet officials and ranking government officials implicated in the pork barrel scam.
“The point here is I only have one official family. Do I trust them or not? What are the allegations against them?” Aquino told reporters at the sidelines of the inauguration of a new solar energy power plant in Negros Occidental.
“And I already promised you, when we have sufficient evidence, we will bring the case to court and that’s what happened when we brought the information we had to the Ombudsman,” he said.
A list submitted by former senator Panfilo Lacson to the Senate tagged Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Joel Villanueva. The three were former congressmen.
Aquino said his Cabinet secretaries should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
He added that it would be wrong for him to fire officials because of allegations against them.
“In our country, the rights of a person are protected and one of the tenets of our law is [that people are]innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until you prove yourself innocent,” the President said.
Alcala and Abad met with Aquino in Malacañang on Wednesday afternoon, but the list was not discussed.
The two Cabinet members have denied the accusations against them.
In the case of the Tesda chief, the President said Villanueva already showed him the alleged documents linking him to the scam. The documents, Aquino said, bore the letterhead of a party-list that Villanueva never ran under.
Villanueva was a congressman for the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party list.
“Is that sufficient evidence for me to remove Secretary Villanueva? If I removed him for that alone, I would say: Sorry, there are rumors against you so thank you. Thank you for the 91 percent of graduates you produced for the semiconductor and electronics industry who were eventually employed. And sorry to the 62 percent of graduates, previously 26 percent, that you gave jobs to,” the President said.