SENATOR Francis Escudero chided Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Friday for lawyering for Janet Lim Napoles, and asked if the two had already struck a deal to keep administration allies like Senate President Franklin Drilon off her list of lawmakers who benefitted from the pork barrel scam.
Escudero, who was in the Napoles list, said that based on press reports, his name doesn’t appear in the list provided by whistleblower Benhur Luy, who kept a ledger detailing the pork barrel transactions.
“I think Senator Drilon is in the Benhur’s list but not in Napoles’ list,” Escudero said.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, another administration ally, was in Luy’s list but not in Napoles’ list, he added.
“I am baffled why there were names in the ledger which Napoles intentionally did not release,” Escudero said in an interview over ANC’s Headstart program.
Escudero said he has seen Napoles’ one-page list that De Lima submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee Thursday, and it appeared to be printed in the same format as the list that the Napoles family had given to rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson had earlier submitted his copy of the list and an unsigned affidavit with a narration of events to Blue Ribbon panel chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III.
Escudero said the list from De Lima included at least five congressmen who were not in Lacson’s list.
“So, perhaps, the good question for Secretary De Lima is: Do they already have a deal?” said Escudero.
He added that in her recent statements, De Lima was acting like Napoles’ lawyer.
“Why is she acting like a lawyer and vetting the affidavit?” Escudero said. “Is she already a state witness? What is the exact role of the prosecutor in relation to Napoles?”
Escudero was among 11 incumbent senators included in the Napoles list submitted by De Lima to Guingona.
The other senators in the list are Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, JV Ejercito, and Juan Edgardo Angara.
Except for Angara, whose name was added to the list in Napoles’ handwriting, the other senators were also in the list provided by Lacson.
De Lima said the Napoles affidavits and the list in her possession were given to her by Napoles before she underwent an operation last month at Ospital ng Makati.
“De Lima studied them first, and then released them piece-by-piece. In fact, Secretary De Lima is acting like the lawyer for Napoles, submitting [the list] to the Senate, instead of the lawyer of Napoles submitting the list to the Senate. It’s appearing that Sec. De Lima has been validating everything-- the list, but she cannot do that. Once a witness executes an affidavit, true or false, even if it’s marred with falsity, that’s her affidavit.”
It was not for the Justice Department to validate or verify the contents of Napoles’ affidavit, he said.
“What if they found out it’s not true? Can they actually go back to Napoles and tell her, ‘Hey change the affidavit and remove Escudero’? They cannot do that. If Napoles included lies in her affidavit, let it stand, true or false, based on its content,” he said.
Escudero also denied the allegation of Luy’s resigned lawyer, Levito Baligod, that a whistleblower saw him accept P500,000 from Napoles.
While he met Napoles once in Congress when he was still a congressman, Escudero said he had no dealings with her.
“I also have not received anything from her. I am ready to prove that, whenever accusation is raised,” said Escudero, who said Napoles was introduced to him as “Jenny Lim.”
“I met her, but there was no offer,” he said.
Escudero said the problem was that too many people – De Lima, Lacson and Baligod – were talking for Napoles.
“Let Napoles speak and state her accusations against us. She should not be using and riding on the credibility of these people, including Ms. Sandra Cam. It would seem that she’s is now the one making accusations... All of the questions being thrown up to me is, ‘Senator, attorney Baligod said... Senator, Secretary De Lima said. Senator, you are in the list of Secretary Ping [Lacson].’ Sorry, they don’t have any list. It’s Napoles who has a list. It is Napoles who is accusing us, and if you believe Napoles, I can no longer do anything about it,” Escudero said.
Escudero said he had no clue why a whistleblower would say Napoles gave him P500,000, but noted that it was Baligod talking about the affidavit that he saw.
Escudero said that as an opposition congressman between 2007 and 2009, he did to receive any pork barrel releases.
All his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations before this period were allocated and published in a book that was given to his constituents, media and local government units.
“I never allocated [PDAF] to [any] NGO even when I was a senator. I started getting my pork releases in 2010 when Aquino became the President. We just allocated it into two releases. One, hospital assistance, medical assistance. Two, assistance to LGUs for the construction and repair of public markets. Before the issuance, it was already posted in our website,” he said.
Santiago said Friday she wanted Baligod and his backers drawn and quartered, and have their severed heads hung from the highest flagpoles in Rizal Park.
“Scum like Baligod and his conspirators think nothing of destroying my reputation,” she said.
Baligod earlier said he was the one who drew up Luy’s list containing the names of 25 incumbent and former senators – including Santiago – who allegedly channeled their pork barrel to bogus projects set up by Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.
“It appears that Baligod, by his own admission, concocted the list and distributed it. It also appears that Luy dismissed Baligod and is now represented by lawyer Raji Mendoza. The incumbent lawyer has told media that Luy had nothing to do with the preparation of the so-called Luy list. If so, then Baligod should take full responsibility,” the senator said.
Santiago, who was not included in the Napoles list, also said she is contemplating filing disbarment proceedings against Baligod.
The Luy list was circulated this week, incurring the ire of several senators, including Santiago.
Ejercito, meanwhile, offered P20 million to anyone who could prove his links to the pork barrel scam.
Ejercito was included in both lists that were turned over to Guingona.
Ejercito’s name also reportedly appeared in so-called Luy list, but the whistleblower and his current lawyer refused to confirm the list that Baligod has been circulating.
The senator also denied knowing Napoles when he was a congressman.
“Maybe I was a nobody to her. I saw her one time, but she just ignored me,” he recalled.
He also said his rift with his half brother, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, would also rule out his making a deal with Napoles.
“So naturally, a friend of my enemy won’t be my friend,” Ejercito said.
So far, only three senators, all of them from the opposition, have been charged with plunder by the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.
Napoles is also facing plunder charges, but has applied for immunity from suit in exchange for testifying as a state witness. De Lima said she is studying the request and would make her recommendation to the Ombudsman.
De Lima on Friday expressed disappointment over Guingona’s decision to release copies of the Napoles list, saying it did not necessarily represent the truth.
“What has been done is done,” she said.
Without the accompanying completed affidavit, the list cannot be taken as accurate, she said.
“The list does not represent the truth per se. It would take further investigation and painstaking collection of evidence—as what was done before complaints were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman—before we arrive at the truth,” De Lima said, in a statement.
De Lima had refused for weeks to divulge the contents of the list but complied with the subpoena to submit the list to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
“As I have said before, the truth can be revealed in unexpected ways and even from unexpected sources. It is our job in the DOJ to ferret it out, even if we have to wade through rivers of lies and scale seemingly impenetrable walls of silence,” she said.
De Lima said that she was hoping that Guingona would take the side of “prudence” in not prematurely releasing the list without the complete and signed affidavit.
She said she expected the Napoles camp to finish the complete affidavit “within a few days.”
Napoles remains confined at Ospital ng Makati after her ovaries and uterus were removed April 23. She is being detained on serious illegal detention charges filed by Luy, the principal whistleblower in the pork barrel scam.