JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday resisted the mounting clamor for her to immediately make public the list of lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scam that the scheme’s alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, had turned over.
She said the National Bureau of Investigation is still validating the information given by Napoles, who tagged some other person as “the real mastermind.”
“I already said that I cannot be pressured to release the list at this point. I will do so in due time—upon completion of the Napoles statement and the vetting process,” De Lima said in a text message.
Nonetheless, De Lima agreed with Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate has constitutional power to compel her to release the list, she appealed for understanding from the senators.
“By law and the Constitution, the Senate can compel me to disclose the list, under pain of contempt. But I will appeal to them to wait for the proper time and give me enough space to discharge my mandated tasks with utmost responsibility,” she said.
Some senators have been urging De Lima to release the list to end speculations linking them to the scam.
However, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said they would allow the Justice Department to complete its validation process before reopening hearings on the pork barrel scam.
In the Palace, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III said no order was given to De Lima to suppress the list to protect administration allies.
“Public officials associated with the administration will be treated in the same manner as all others. Their alleged involvement in anomalies will be scrutinized thoroughly to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence to file appropriate charges against them,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.
De Lima on Monday opted to ignore whistleblower Sandra Cam, who went to the Justice Department to appeal for the release of the list.
As a matter of public interest, De Lima should reveal the list, Cam said in a letter that she and Melchor Madamo as officials of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines had delivered to the Justice Department.
Cam said she was afraid De Lima would sanitize the list in order to spare administration allies.
“In the list I have, 80 percent of the names are administration allies; not all Liberal Party but allies of this administration,” Cam said.
Aside from opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada who have already been charged before the Ombudsman, 10 other incumbent senators were in the list plus three former senators and 82 congressmen, Cam said.
Cam would not reveal the names on her list, however, saying De Lima as a public servant should do so.
Cam said her association would ask the Supreme Court to order De Lima to make the list public.
Cam warned that any delay in releasing the list would only fuel speculation that it was being sanitized.
De Lima had earlier questioned Cam’s personality in the case, and warned that other parties meddling in the case might have an “insidious agenda.”
Meantime, Senate President Franklin Drilon on Monday waved away accusations by Sandra Cam, president of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines, that he was out to silence her over his alleged role in the pork barrel scam.
“Let her do her thing. I don’t know what she’s talking about,” said Drilon when sought for comment on Cam’s claims that he and the Liberal Party were harassing her to stop her from coming out with a list of government officials involved in the scam.
On Sunday, Cam said Agrarian Reform Assistant Secretary Alex Almario, whom she depicted as Drilon’s associate in the Liberal Party, had even visited her house in Cavite and had repeatedly called her on the phone.
But Drilon denied having anything to do with the assistant secretary.
“I do not know any Almario,” he said.
In a statement, Almario also denied knowing Drilon, and said he had decided to look up Cam on a whim, after a traffic snarl on his way from Tagaytay sent him to Alfonso, Cavite, where she had a house.
“Sandra had occasion to invite me to her same residence, in the past, but I just could not find time to honor those invitations, then. So, when we came down by around 1 or 2 p.m. last May 1st, we dropped by Sandra’s place, but unfortunately, we were told that she was not around. I… waited for a few more minutes. When she still did not materialize, we finally headed for home, and just left my calling card,” Almario said.
He described Cam’s allegations as “unfortunate.”
In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., a Liberal, challenged Cam to substantiate her allegations.
“I do not know where she is coming from. Is this one more list? If she has something with evidence, she should come out,” Belmonte told the Manila Standard. “I do not think LP is trying to gag anybody.”
Opposition lawmakers also cautioned Cam against going on a witch hunt, and urged her to turn over any evidence she had against the Liberal Party to the proper authorities.
A member of the minority, 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III called for an investigation.
“While I am not inclined to believe that Senator Drilon is capable of doing what Ms. Cam alleges, an investigation should be conducted to clear [his] name,” Bello said.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III urged all parties to refrain from going on a witch hunt over the list of names that the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim Napoles, had turned over to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“Let us wait for the facts. It is easy to accuse but it will be very difficult to prove if there is no hard evidence,” Albano said.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the independent minority in the House, said he too was unconvinced by Cam’s accusations.
“I do not think Senate President Drilon will do any harm to her,” de la Cruz said, but added that the Liberals are surely “anxious about her moves and posturing.”
House Deputy Majority Leaders Jorge Banal of Quezon City and Sherwin Tugna of the Cibac party-list demanded that Cam prove her allegations.
“She should articulate in detail when where and how LP stalwarts were trying to silence her,” Banal said.
“She should just give a detailed account of how she was muzzled or silenced. I am interested to hear her detailed account,” he added.
Tugna said Cam was remiss in her civic duty by not releasing any evidence.
Cam said that based on the documents in her possession, the kickbacks to lawmakers did not come only from the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel allocations, the Malampaya fund or the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Cam said one high-ranking senator got even more kickbacks than the three opposition senators that have already been charged in the pork barrel scam. Macon Ramos-Araneta, Maricel V. Cruz and Joyce Pangco Pañares