LAWMAKERS and anti-pork barrel advocates on Monday accused President Benigno Aquino III of muddling the issue and using the lists furnished by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles as political leverage.
On Sunday evening, Aquino said he was the first person to receive a copy of the so-called Napoles list containing the names of lawmakers and executive officials who benefitted from the P10 billion pork barrel scam.
He said this was before Napoles met Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to submit her affidavit and the list of names.
“I really don’t remember when it was transmitted to me. I just glanced at it. I am not a lawyer. I would not be able to say that this is enough to constitute evidence. So I had it transmitted to the legal advisers and chief among them is Secretary Leila de Lima,” the President said in an interview that was aired over Radyo ng Bayan Monday.
Aquino said so far, there are three Napoles lists -- the one that he received, the copy given to De Lima, and the one in the possession of rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson.
While he has yet to see a copy of the list that is with Lacson, Aquino said the three lists are not identical, casting doubts on their veracity.
He added that the conflicting details in the different lists point to an effort to muddle the issue.
“One cannot escape the suspicion that instead of trying to clarify matters, they are trying to cloud the whole issue, to make the process much more difficult... It could be that there are people who want us to waste time on details to derail us from our goal,” Aquino added.
But the opposition United Nationalist Alliance called Aquino’s revelation was a dodge.
“What a lousy script. Now it becomes more obvious that the list is incriminating, so they have to muddle the issue and confuse the public,” said Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, the group’s secretary general.
Opposition lawmakers and the anti pork groups #ScrapPork Network and #AbolishPork added that it was Aquino who was trying to muddle the issue, and challenged him to “put up or shut up.”
In a news conference, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent minority gloc, said the President was being unfair to all the members of Congress, who are being suspected of being included in the Napoles lists.
“When the news about the pork barrel scam came out, even those of us who had nothing to do with it were being dragged into the issue and it was unfortunate that our people misjudge every member as being a crook and the President is aggravating that poor image that has been created already,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez dared the President to come out with the list and to stop delaying its release to protect his allies.
“If the President has the so-called Napoles list, then he better come out with those and stop the speculation going around. He should stop muddling the issue and just come out with it. Let the chips fall where they may, even if these include his allies,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez also said the Palace was using the Napoles lists as political leverage to get the Bangsamoro Basic Law approved in Congress.
“It is being used as a political leverage like, ‘okay, you better behave or you would be included in the list or behave and we will drop you from the list’,” Romualdez said.
Anti-pork barrel advocate Elizabeth Angsioco, also president of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, reminded the President that he was elected because people wanted an end to corruption and greater transparency and accountability.
“The pork issue is the acid test. It’s been almost a year and all we have are words,” Angsioco said.
“This issue about the existence of several lists of politicians who benefited from Napoles’ scam is further muddling the issue. If indeed there are lists, why are these being kept from the public?” she added.
“This administration should make a clean go at it, release the lists and prosecute those who should be held accountable whether they are friend or foe,” Angsioco said.
The President, she added, must prove that his straight path policy applies to all, and is not being used selectively.
#AbolishPork convenor Vencer Crisostomo said the President was muddling the issue and covering up the fact that he was “Pork barrel King and his minions like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, DILG
Secretary Mar Roxas, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and the ‘Love Pork Party’ or Liberal Party have benefitted from pork.”
“The Palace should stop playing mind games with the public. It’s time to make public the list. Tomorrow, we will protest in front of the DOJ,” said Renato Reyes, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general.
“It appears that the Napoles camp has a direct line to the President when it comes to submitting evidence, a most disturbing revelation that follows Napoles surrender to Aquino himself,” Reyes added.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the President was also using the list to distract the public from the Expanded Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the country recently signed with the United States.
“The President has so many reasons not only to muddle but also to hype the pork scam hullabaloo. I think he also wants to distract the people from the EDCA issue,” De Jesus said.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said this was a “grand plan to obfuscate the truth.”
“Instead of hiding the list and obstructing the attainment of truth and justice, the President should be the first to divulge the list to the public,” Ridon said.
Reyes likened the Napoles list to the Hello Garci tapes during the term of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
“The tale of three Napoles lists is quite similar to the tale of two tapes during the Hello Garci scandal. One is purportedly real, one is not. The public ends up confused,” Reyes said.
“Like Arroyo, Aquino wants to confuse the public and justify not releasing the damning Napoles list,” he added.
Reyes also accused Aquino of “sitting on possible evidence all this time, trying to protect his allies.”
“His non-disclosure of the contents of the list points to a cynical agenda to spare his administration and preserve the status quo. Aquino is now a party to the cover up,” Reyes said.
But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Bayan’s allegations were unfounded.
“There is no cover up. That is an unfounded allegation...Even the President has cautioned against possible confusion and misdirection,” Coloma added.
Napoles’ lawyer, Bruce Rivera, said the authentic list is the one his client handed to De Lima.
Rivera, however, refused to reveal the names of politicians and other personalities mentioned by Napoles in the list, saying he is not authorized divulge any information about the pork barrel scam.
Rivera admitted that the Napoles family initially gave a list to Lacson but he reiterated that the list was incomplete.
Rivera also brushed aside reports that Cam has her own list of politicians involved in the scam.
“We don’t know about that and where it came from,” he said.
Napoles was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman, along with opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, and more than 30 other people.
The lawmakers have been accused of channeling government funds to bogus projects in exchange for kickbacks.
Senator Segio Osmeña III, an administration ally, said the problem with multiple lists stemmed from the government’s decision not to release the list.
“Of course, that’s the problem. The moment you withhold a key evidence, then other people will start saying they too have the list. That’s their fault for delaying it. They should have come out with the list earlier,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also slammed the government for not telling all.
“Why not subpoena the records of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Audit (COA) to find out once and for all those who are the clients of Napoles?” said Cayetano in a news conference after Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto Guingona announced that he has subpoenaed De Lima to submit the list.
Guingona said that he will first get the documents before he determines what the next step for the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Cayetano said the government should release all documents like the Special Allotment Release Orders, requests of senators and congressmen and audit reports to finally get to the bottom of the alleged Napoles list.
Also on Monday, Estrada criticized Guingona for his frequent absences, which delayed the Blue Ribbon Committee action on the Napoles list.
“That should have been done a long time ago. The problem was he decided only now since he was always absent in the Senate,” Estrada said of Guingona.
He said Guingona might be trying to shore up his sagging popularity in the latest polls by issuing the subpoena to De Lima.
“When she [De Lima] got hold of that alleged list by Mrs. Napoles, she should have divulged it to the public right away,” said Estrada.
He again pointed out that De Lima was eager to confirm the involvement of Enrile, Revilla and himself, but refused to comment on anybody else on the list.
“What kind of statement was that? Does it mean that only the three of us will be pinned down?” he said.
Estrada also said he had no problem with the government’s decision to conduct a lifestyle check on him, but said the Bureau of Internal Revenue should leave out his wife and children.
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