Opposition main target; move tied to 2016 polls
President Benigno Aquino III is gearing up to use his fourth State-of-the-Nation Address next week to bash the opposition with allegations of corruption, setting the tone for the second half of his term, which will focus on stopping his rivals from regaining power in the 2016 presidential elections, reliable sources said Wednesday.
They added that the President’s men have already run out of issues to blame on Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been under hospital detention since November 2011.
“It’s been three years so the blame game is passé,” said one source privy to the SONA preparations. “It is no longer effective. So the next half of his term should show that the remnants of the Arroyo machinery should not regain the upper hand in running government.”
“The corruption scandal such as the pork [barrel] mess is directed at the opposition. This is to create an illusion of achievement where they have miserably failed. Since the Aquino government hardly made a dent on poverty and the unemployment rate, they have no choice but to use a smokescreen or a diversion,” the source said.
The source added that the Commission on Audit has a ready report that the President will disclose in his address next week.
The COA report has been signed by COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, a whistleblower on alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The report implicates members of the opposition in a pork barrel scandal in which lawmakers allocate their Priority Development Assistance Funds to non-existent projects throug bogus non-government organizations that funnel kickbacks to the congressmen and senators.
“The President did not have to name names. The names are already in the papers and the COA would only confirm the opposition bashing,” the source said.
But the members of the opposition are gearing up as well for a bruising word war with the administration.
Former Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV, Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Ramon Revilla Jr. denied having allocated any funds to the bogus NGOs.
Cagas said he was included in the administration’s hit list because the Palace learned of his plan to expose a P2.8-billion
He also denied suggesting or endorsing the highway project.
“How can I possibly identify projects when they withheld my pork barrel funds and released only a small portion or P15 million of the annual P70 million?” Cagas said.
“I dare the President to announce in his SONA that he too should investigate the corruption committed by his men so that the fight will be even. Their accusations against us are baseless, but their actions can be seen in the budget allocation. The project and the money have gone missing,” Cagas said.
On Wednesday, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who has been accused of running the pork barrel scam that channeled P10 billion in development funds to ghost projects, turned the tables on the whistleblower, a former personal assistant.
Benhur Luy, who tagged her in the scam, was a self-confessed drug addict, Napoles said.
Luy, she added, was “by his own admission is a habitual user of the illegal drug ecstacy” and also had “gender confusion and sexual indiscretions.”
In a press conference in Manila, Napoles’ lawyer and spokesman Bruce Rivera said Luy had posted a photo of ecstacy tablets on his social networking account and even invited friends to “party” by taking the drugs together.
The lawyer said Luy’s alleged drug addiction and gender issues would raise questions on his credibility as a witness.
Napoles also confirmed in a statement that she had written a letter to President Aquino in April about an attempt by Luy’s camp to extort P300 million from her in exchange for his silence.
A lawyer for Luy also demanded that she facilitate the issuance of Canadian visas for the Luy family and pocket money amounting to $1.5 million and the setting up of a pharmacy for the youngest Luy sibling who would not be going to Canada, Napoles said.
“It is clear that the extortion and blackmail are the motive behind the series of articles, which appeared in (a newspaper) and was no doubt fed by unidentified NBI agents,” Napoles said in a statement read by her lawyer.
Napoles, stockbroker and owner of JLN Corp., also accused Luy of stealing P300,000 from her and using her firm to secure P5.5 million in loans without her approval.
The businesswoman said the National Bureau of Investigation and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima were misled into conducting a “fake rescue” of Napoles in March from the condominium unit of Napoles’ brother, Reynaldo Lim.
Napoles’ lawyer said the NBI was not the best way to investigate the alleged pork scam, citing the Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate as more appropriate venues.
Napoles also denied charges that she put up fake NGOs and hit allegations made against her in a series of newspaper stories that were based “merely on the sworn affidavits of the Luy family before the NBI.”
She said there were no documentary records or evidence to support the statements of Luy.
Napoles’ lawyer said his client was puzzled by the inclusion of five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives in the reports on pork barrel corruption.
“She’s so embarrassed because she doesn’t know any of them at all. She’s afraid they would confront her when they see her and she would not know what to say,” Rivera said.
With her disagreement with Luy triggering political maneuvering, Napoles said she was frightened for her life.
“I now fear for the security of myself and my family since Benhur divulged our residential address as well as the location of our offices,” she said.
Luy also exposed the license plate numbers of several of the Tapoles vehicles, setting them up for kidnappers who might believe the stories about her wealth.
Rivera refused to say where Napoles was staying as he denied that his client would flee the country.
Malacańang on Wednesday ordered all government agencies that may be able to shed light on the alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam to cooperate with the National Bureau of Investigation.
“If the cooperation of government departments will be required, then it will be given,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
“The instruction of the President given to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is to ensure that it is exhaustively investigated. And Secretary Leila spoke to me yesterday and she told me that she can assure all parties concerned that this will be exhaustive, impartial, and a fair investigation,” Lacierda said.
“That’s the guarantee that this government and Secretary Leila de Lima can assure all the parties involved,” he added.
Benhur Luy, the whistleblower who exposed the alleged scam, said Revilla topped the list of legislators who allowed the use of his pork barrel by the group Janet Napoles, owner of JLN.
Luy alleged that the funds from the ghost projects were split between Napoles’ firm and the legislators involved in the scam.
Revilla, chairman of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party, branded the accusation against him a “demolition job.”
“Are they destroying my name because there were some who are pushing me in the 2016 (presidential elections?) Nonetheless, I am not surprised with this demolition job against me in the name of politics,” the senator said.
“This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose – to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people...Suspiciously, only non-allies of the administration are being dragged in this controversy,” Revilla added.
Enrile said he does not know Napoles and has no personal or business transactions with her or her company.
He reiterated his call to the Commission on Audit to release the report of its Special Audit of the PDAF of all legislators to help the Department of Justice and the NBI in their probe. With Rey E. Requejo and Joyce Pańares