Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he was shocked at the revelations contained by the recording and documents provided by the family of Janet Lim-Napoles about the “real mastermind” of the pork barrel scam and how it all started.
The materials may give credence to the claim of Napoles that she was not the brains behind the anomaly involving the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
“More or less I already have an idea where they are coming from and from that perspective, I have an idea on who they are referring to as the real mastermind,” Lacson said in an interview aired over radio dzBB.
Lacson said earlier he had met with Jimmy Napoles, the husband of Janet, and that he was given documents and a list of people allegedly involved in the pork scam. The documents include a draft affidavit of Napoles, her narration detailing the pork barrel scam operation and a two-page list containing names of lawmakers and government officials involved in the scandal.
The former senator, and now rehabilitation czar for Yolanda-hit areas assigned by President Benigno Aquino 3rd with the rank of Cabinet secretary, had listened to the recording but he refused to disclose any details on the content of the conversation.
“Ang sinabi ko lamang, more or less may ideya ako kung sino iyong tinutukoy nila na mas guilty pa sa kanya. [I’m just saying that more or less I have an idea on the identity of the person who is said to be the most guilty],” the former senator told reporters.
Aside from the documents, Napoles’ husband also submitted a USB flash disk containing an audio file of a recorded conversation between Napoles and a man whom Lacson did not identify.
He, however, admitted that the conversation was shocking and would explain how the pork scandal started.
“I was not expecting it. It is like a story within a story,” Lacson said.
But the recording would be worthless because it could not be admitted as evidence in court.
Under RA 4200 or the Anti Wiretapping Law, any communication or spoken word, or any information obtained through tapping of any wire or cable, or by using other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication without authority from the parties concerned cannot be admitted as evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.
Willing to release list
The former lawmaker said he would release the list if the Department of Justice (DOJ) presented a “sanitized” version to the public.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said she had an affidavit signed by Napoles when she and the businesswoman met for five hours at the Ospital ng Makati. De Lima also got the same list that was given to Lacson.
But Lacson said he would wait for the DOJ to bare the list. If de Lima does not disclose all the names included in the list, then it will be his “duty” to release his copy to the public.
He said there is no reason for the DOJ not to release the complete “Napoles list” because it is clear in her unsigned affidavit that they are involved in the PDAF operation and there is evidence to support it.
Also on Thursday, de Lima said she will get more details on the pork scam in her succeeding meetings with Napoles.
“We will be scheduling further sessions with her,” she added, noting that the main concern of government prosecutors is to preserve the evidence presented to her by Napoles.
“May na-preserve na evidence [There is evidence that has been preserved]. Sample documentary evidence,” de Lima said.
She added that they will reveal the documents “in due time” after “extensive verification.”
“[We will find] out more about this PDAF and Malampaya [scams]. When I do share with the public the list, I’ll be [saying]which ones are true, credible and untrue,” the Justice chief said. Malampaya funds came from the government’s natural gas operation of the same name.
De Lima assured the public that charges will be filed against the third batch of lawmakers who allegedly also earned kickbacks from PDAF-funded ghost projects.
De Lima said some of these lawmakers had dealings with Napoles’ fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list called on Lacson to bare the names of the lawmakers who were implicated by Napoles in the pork barrel scam.
Lacson on Wednesday said more than 100 congressmen were on the list.
“I don’t know where he [Lacson] is coming from. He should put up or shut up,” Belmonte said.
“To be fair to Congress, [former]Senator Lacson should name names. He has put the entire Congress under the shadow of doubt. He should speak out or shut up!” Bello, who served as Justice secretary under President Gloria Arroyo, said.
“If he really has personal knowledge of the scam and all those involved in this scam, then he should speak now,” Bello added.
Rep. Rodito Albano of Isabela said Lacson revealing that he met with Jimmy Napoles, husband of Janet, and that he was given documents that contain the names of lawmakers who had transactions with the “pork barrel queen” has spawned a guessing game that does not help in achieving justice.
“It is his right [to make the revelation]. However, everybody now becomes a suspect and worse, everyone is guilty by association,” Albano, a lawyer, added.
Instead of prolonging the mystery, the Department of Justice should study Lacson’s list and file a complaint against those on the list if it is warranted, House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list said.
“This is the proper procedure so that the names of lawmakers who are on such a list but not part of the [PDAF] scam won’t be unnecessarily tarnished,” Tugna added.
But for House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares, Lacson’s disclosure should prompt President Aquino to revamp the Commission on Audit (COA) to ensure that the agency is not sanitizing its reports on lawmakers who have misused their PDAF.
“The COA has the power and duty to examine, audit and settle all accounts and expenditures of the funds and properties of the Philippine government. It can also prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds and properties. Now, has it done its job?” Colmenares said in a statement.
“With the staggering scope and extent of the pork barrel scam, it is high time that the COA is placed under stricter scrutiny,” he added.
No political color
Malacañang spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also on Thursday said there will be no “political color” in the evaluation and investigation of new testimonies given by Napoles and that even administration allies will be charged if evidence warrants.
Lacierda did not discount the possibility that there may be personalities close to the President who may be dragged into the issue. They, too, will be investigated, he said.
With Jomar Canlas And Joel M. Sy Egco