THE United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Sunday raised suspicion on the Senate blue ribbon decision to drop Janet Lim-Napoles from the list of resource persons in the opening of its inquiry into the alleged P900-million Malampaya gas fund scam.
Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas City (Metro Manila), UNA interim president, said he could not understand why the committee chairman, Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, suddenly decided not to invite Napoles who, Guingona had said, played a key role in funneling money to politicians to help bankroll their campaign in the 2010 national elections.
“[Why did Sen. Guingona scratch Mrs. Napoles from the roster of witnesses, when at the height of hearings on the PDAF they wanted her to face them perosonally]? What are they so scared of? What I see are frightened faces of some allies of the administration [once Napoles starts ticking off names of those who may have benefited from the alleged Malampaya fund racket],” Tiangco said.
PDAF is the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel of lawmakers from the Senate and House of Representatives.
Its alleged misuse by the legislators has resulted in Napoles’ implication as the brains behind the funneling of lawmakers’ pork barrel to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) in exchange for huge kickbacks from the businesswoman.
Described by Tiangco as a “key corroborator” in the Malampaya fund scam, Napoles has identified socialite Ruby Tuason as the prime mover in converting proceeds from the billion-peso gas fund into campaign money in the 2010 elections, and admitted to receiving kickbacks from every transaction made from the Malampaya fund.
The UNA official said Guingona should not turn a blind eye on Napoles’ sworn affidavit that Tuason received 60 percent commission from the illicit scheme of which the balance was split with “other parties,” including 97 local executives who benefited from the racket.
For the sake of transparency and public interest, Tiangco urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to make public a five-and-a-half-hour video in which Napoles detailed circumstances surrounding the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams and how Budget Secretary Florencio Abad coached the businesswoman on how to set up bogus NGOs.
He said if Guingona really wanted to ferret out the truth and go after those who were actively involved in siphoning off the Malamapaya gas fund, then the Senate blue ribbon committee should also summon de Lima to produce the 5 1/2-hour recorded video of Napoles’ testimony at the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak) in April this year.
“[But the case is], LP [Liberal Party] allies in the Senate seem to be hiding something, that’s why they don’t want Mrs. Napoles to appear before Malampaya fund probers. The Senate and the DOJ have no plans of going after members of the Liberal Party who benefited from PDAF and Malampaya [scams], and even those implicated in the MRT 3 [Metro Rail Transit 3] extortion case,” Tiangco added.
According to him, not one of the 97 local executives involved in the Malampaya fund scam have been investigated by the DOJ or by the National Bureau of Investigation.
The investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee of the alleged Malampaya gas fund scam would suffer if the panel forgot to invite and hear testimonies of Napoles and Tuason, according to Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.
Ejercito, one of those who had been pushing for the inquiry into the alleged racket, also on Sunday explained that Napoles and Tuason were the main players in the scam.
He said the businesswoman could provide crucial information and name government officials who benefited from a fraction of the gas fund, which was intended for farmers in 97 towns damaged by typhoons in 2009.
Sen. Francis Escudero agreed with Ejercito, saying regardless of what Napoles will tell investigators, the businesswoman is entitled to her right to air her side on the gas-fund racket.
Tuason should also be summoned to the hearings, according to the senator, for her to give her side on allegations that she orchestrated the entire scam and even earned P300 million from it.
The blue ribbon panel has invited Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan of the Commission on Audit to a hearing today.
“She should be given a chance to attend [committee]hearings, even if there is a big chance that she might only invoke her right against self-incrimination,” Escudero said.
In case Napoles would refuse to attend proceedings, he added, at least the panel was fair, giving her a chance to refute allegations that she was a player in the fund scam.
The businesswoman, in an affidavit that she reportedly entrusted to former senator Panfilo Lacson last May, said it was Tuason who told her in 2009 that she will be getting money from Malacanang from the Malampaya gas fund and portion of the money will be used for the 2010 elections.
Tuason even provided Napoles the list of 97 mayors and their respective municipalities and the businesswoman instructed her to rush everything because of the approaching 2010 national elections and that the mayors would be using the money for their campaign.
“Aside from the P900 million Malampaya fund, Ruby was also able to bring in different project insertions of other politicians amounting to P50 million and P300 million,” Napoles stated in her affidavit.
She said she found out later that none of the 97 local chief executives who supposedly benefited from the P900-million Malampaya fund were included in the case filed by the Justice department before the Office of the Ombudsman.