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More senators in scam

De Lima accused of purging list of ‘pork’ suspects

THREE more senators or former senators were involved in the pork barrel scam, lawyer Levito Baligod said Thursday.

Baligod, the former lawyer of whistleblower Benhur Luy, told a radio interview on dzMM that evidence against the three had already been submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation.

He declined to say, however, who the senators were.

Three opposition lawmakers, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., have already been charged with plunder and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman, for allegedly channeling their pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations set up by Janet Lim Napoles, in exchange for kickbacks.

A Manila court hearing a forfeiture case filed against Napoles by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on Thursday ordered her bank accounts and properties frozen.

Aside from the plunder complaint, Napoles is also accused of detaining Luy to prevent him from spilling the beans on the pork barrel scam.

Baligod said the evidence submitted to the NBI was based on the same documents in the care of Luy that had led to the filing of charges against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

One of the three was said to be a frequent visitor to Napoles’ office at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City.

Baligod said that the cases before the Ombudsman were only a small part of the entire pork barrel story.

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Napoles racket was “very, very minimal” compared to another scam being linked to a current or former congressman.

On Thursday, Senator Francis Escudero, an independent who ran under the banner of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party, said party affiliation should not be a consideration in the filing of charges.

“There should be no discrimination,” said Escudero.

“Up to now, many including myself are still waiting if a member of the Liberal Party or an ally of the administration will be prosecuted because it seems that those being charged are... perceived opponents of the administration,” he said.

Escudero also took Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to task for allegedly purging the names of the other suspects in the scam.

He remembered De Lima telling him there would be a second batch of suspects charged.

“She said they are still studying it then but it’s been quite awhile and we have not heard about it (second batch of suspects),” Escudero said.

Estrada and Revilla decried the “selective indictment” that focused on the opposition, adding that the charges seemed aimed at derailing their vice presidential and presidential ambitions in 2016.

Estrada has said he will run for vice president if Vice President Jejomar Binay, who will run for president, offers him the spot.

Revilla is being groomed by Lakas-Christiam Muslim Democrats as their standard bearer in the 2016 elections.

On Wednesday, Vice President Jejomar Binay dared the government to prosecute not only his allies, but those allied with the Aquino administration implicated in the pork barrel scam.

“If it stops with filing of the plunder cases against three senators who are not political allies and confines itselt to the Napoles case, it will create the impression of being selective, and that political partisanship, not justice, is the sole motivation behind these charges,” Binay said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, the Manila regional trial court hearing the forfeiture case against Napoles ordered her bank and other assets frozen.

Executive Judge Marino dela Cruz of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22, issued an asset preservation order that effectively prevents Napoles and members of her family and several other personalities from accessing their bank accounts and assets.

The judge earlier issued a provisional order that was effective for only 20 days.

The new order will remain effective until the court resolves the forfeiture case against Napoles, her brother Reynald Lim and others.

The court order prohibits transactions involving the bank accounts of Napoles and her brother, her husband James and their children James Christopher, Jeane Catherine, Jane Catherine and John Christian.

Others covered by the order were former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, and whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Simonette Briones, Luy’s mother Gertrudes, and potential witness Ruby Tuason.

Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Zenaida Ducut and about 70 other personalities and non-government organizations connected to Napoles were also covered by the order.

Among those covered by the order were seven bank accounts belonging to Napoles and four bank accounts belonging to Luy.

Earlier, Napoles lawyers asserted that the civil forfeiture case violated the rules because the AMLC failed to allege specific acts or omissions as well as particular visions of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Napoles lawyer Lannie David, during the last hearing two weeks ago, insisted the case lacked legal and factual basis, and that the AMLC failed to establish that probable cause exists to show Napoles’ properties were connected to illegal activity.

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