THE Senate released a list containing the names of lawmakers and other government officials allegedly linked to the pork barrel scam on Tuesday, hours after it was turned over by former senator Panfilo Lacson.
On the list were Senators Vicente Sotto 3rd, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Manuel Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Robert Barbers, Francis Escudero, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
Sen. Miriam Santiago was not on the list submitted by Lacson, but in an interview on Monday night, the former senator said Santiago was on another list.
The document also contained the names of congressmen who reportedly had dealings with jailed businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Lacson noted that aside from the names of officials and other personalities, the documents he submitted detailed the amount some of the lawmakers received from the “pork” scam operation and how Napoles and the lawmakers did it.
There are also some documents about transactions of some lawmakers about the allotment of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to non-government organizations (NGOs) owned or controlled by Napoles.
But observers said with the release of the list, Napoles managed to make the country hang on to her word, which could be a ruse.
Some of the lawmakers whose names appeared in the documents said the list turned the pork barrel scam into a “wacky and bizarre” news serial because Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and President Benigno Aquino have also claimed to have received their own versions of the Napoles list. Some senators had warned that Lacson and de Lima may have been used by Napoles to muddle the issue.
In a television interview on Monday night, the former senator, now the rehabilitation czar, said some former members of the House of Representatives that were named by Napoles are now part of President Aquino’s Cabinet. But he only mentioned Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, who was a former representative of Batanes.
Lacson said Santiago’s name was not on the list given to him by Napoles’ husband, Jimmy, but was included in the list made by Benhur Luy, the principal witness in the pork barrel scam.
He added that there were lawmakers and government officials found on both lists but there were also names that appear on Napoles’ but not in Luy’s records and vice versa.
Lacson said if the names enumerated in the two lists were combined, the number of incumbent senators implicated in the controversy will be 12. He said there were also nine senators on both lists.
According to him, he believes that the lists should be made public because he finds Napoles credible in identifying those officials who transacted with her.
He, however, noted that Napoles should not be made a state witness.
But congressmen Rodolfo “Rodito” Albano 3rd of Isabela and Oscar Rodriguez of Pampanga said the presence of several lists has turned the controversy into a joke.
“The Napoles multibillion peso scam has become a ludicrous, wacky and bizarre news serial as more and more people claim to have the ‘authentic’ list of wrongdoers. Instead of getting to the bottom of the truth, things have been muddled and have become more complicated,” Albano, a lawyer, pointed out.
“It has become a joke. Can you imagine, I just returned to Congress [after the 2013 polls], I wasn’t here for nine years and yet I was included in one of those lists. I have nothing to do with that controversy and I don’t know Napoles and her associates,” Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability, said in a text message.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar said the “surfacing” of too many lists could be a grand scheme to destroy the credibility of the genuine list.
“I suspect that there are forces or individuals which are orchestrating these efforts to confuse the public. Public vigilance is the call of the day to frustrate these machinations,” Evardone, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, added.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the government to check the sources of the lists to ensure their credibility and authenticity.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the authenticity of these documents can be determined by cross-checking them with other sources and references.
In the course of investigation, he added, the government should exhaust “all the means available, all the resources available, all the references and then the source materials in order to ascertain the authenticity or accuracy of your information.”
When asked if the Catholic Church is willing to extend its hand in establishing authenticity, the prelate said no.
“The church is an institution of mercy and compassion, do not engage the church in any investigation,” he said.
“We are not competent, we do not have the professional preparation to do that because our mission is charity, mercy and compassion,” Villegas added.
Instead, he said, the government should check reports from the Commission on Audit, Senate records and records from the Department of Budget and Management.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI AND ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ