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‘16 senators got pork’

Lacson warns De Lima anew not to purge list

AT least 16 senators benefitted from the pork barrel scam, rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.

“I said before that the list of names is enough to constitute a quorum, but actually, it is enough to ratify a treaty,” Lacson said, referring to a list that he said was given him by the husband of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

Lacson also renewed his warning to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima not to sanitize the so-called Napoles list or he would be forced to disclose the copy that he holds.

“If the list becomes obviously sanitized, then it is my obligation to disclose it. This is a corruption issue, and it is our obligation to call the attention of authorities,” he said.

Earlier, Lacson said based on the so-called Napoles list, a senator who has yet to be implicated in the pork barrel scam received more kickbacks than opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.

The unsigned affidavit came with a USB stick containing a recording of a “revealing” telephone conversation that Lacson refused to detail.

Lacson said Napoles also named officials and employees of the Budget Department who were involved in the scheme through lawmakers funneled their development funds to bogus projects in exchange for kickbacks.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma threw his support behind De Lima’s appeal to be given time to vet the Napoles list.

“It will be irresponsible if the names are made public without being vetted. That is the essence of the appeal of Secretary de Lima, for her to be given time to vet the list,” Coloma said.

On Monday, Coloma said there was no order from the Palace to withhold the list to protect administration allies who may have also been involved in the P10 billion scam.

De Lima’s refusal to disclose the list has fanned speculation that it was being sanitized to remove administration allies.

On Wednesday, the Catholics Bishops Conference of the Philippines joined the growing list of people and organizations calling on De Lima to immediately release the list of names.

Batanes Bishop Camilo Gregorio, assistant secretary of Apostolic Nunciature of the CBCP, said De Lima should divulge the contents of Napoles’ sworn statement for the sake of transparency and accountability.

The church leader said De Lima’s decision to keep the documents from the public hurt her credibility.

“The government’s campaign against corruption will be put into question if the DOJ refuses to release the list reportedly containing several names of administration allies,” he said.

In the House of Representatives, members of the minority bloc backed a call for a full-blown investigation into the pork barrel scam.

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said if the senators were unable to squeeze information from Napoles during her appearance before the Blue Ribbon Committee last year, the House would be able to do so.

Zamora added that the more the list was being kept from the public, the more speculation would arise.

“What is the benefit of keeping that list and hiding it from the public?” Zamora asked. “The longer you talk about it, the longer you hide it, the more speculation that you are adding to or subtracting from it,” he said at a press conference.

Zamora urged the House leadership to take action on the resolution filed by United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco that would compel either Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, or Napoles to divulge the names of erring public officials involved in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scandal.

“If there is a resolution, we will take it up to the House leadership,” Zamora said, adding the investigation was to intended “to ferret out the truth.”

1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, a member of the minority bloc, said De Lima had nobody to blame but herself for prematurely naming the three opposition senators as being on Napoles’ list.

If she was going to keep the list from the public, she should not have confirmed their names, Bello added.

Estrada sought “fairness and impartiality” in the pork barrel investigation and asked the Supreme Court to review the Ombudsman’s decision to deny him access to the affidavits of the state witnesses against him.

He said these affidavits were used as basis for finding probable cause to indict him for plunder.

Estrada, Enrile and Revilla, along with over 30 other people were charged with plunder and graft by the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.

Estrada pleaded with the Supreme Court to protect his constitutional right to due process that the Ombudsman “grievously ignored, trampled upon and violated.”

He said the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause was “premised on evidence not disclosed to him” and that he was effectively prevented from exercising his right to answer and to rebut the allegations made against him.

Estrada had filed his request to be furnished copies of the affidavits of the witnesses and counter-affidavits of the respondents on March 20, including the sworn statements of Ruby Tuason, who claimed to serve as his bagman, and Dennis Cunanan, the former director-general of the Technology Resource Center who said Estrada pressured him to approve his projects. The Ombudsman denied his petition on March 27, saying there was no requirement that he be given copies of the requested documents.

Also on Wednesday, De Lima said it was up to the Makati court trying Napoles for serious illegal detention to decide if she should recuperate at the Ospital ng Makati or in her detention cell in a police camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

On Tuesday, Napoles’ doctors said she she had fully recovered from her surgery last month and is in stable condition after. With Vito Barcelo and Maricel V. Cruz

 

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