FORMER senator and current rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson cautioned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima against sanitizing the list she received from suspected pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, adding that one senator even got more than the three senators who have already been charged.
“If it is sanitized, I will release to the public the list that I have,” Lacson said in a radio interview, noting that the number of lawmakers who benefited from the scam were enough to separately make up quorums in both houses of Congress.
Lacson said one unnamed senator even got more pork barrel funds than Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile or Jinggoy Estrada, who are facing corruption and plunder charges before the Ombudsman.
“I have high hopes that Secretary de Lima will not sanitize the report. Whatever was given to her, let the axe fall where it should,” Lacson added.
Lacson said he received a copy of the affidavit from Napoles’ husband Jimmy in March, several weeks before Napoles talks to De Lima.
He said he was also given a USB stick which he initially thought contained documents.
“The file was a [recorded] telephone conversation. And it was revealing,” Lacson said.
Lacson said Napoles also named officials and employees of the Department of Budget and Management who were also involved in the scam.
Lacson said it appeared that he was chosen by the Napoles couple to have the first crack at the documents because he was the only senator who was clearly not involved in the pork barrel scam since he never accepted any Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“There were names (of senators who also received kickbacks) who were never mentioned yet during the hearings...While some of these names were not surprising, in a way I did not expect them (to be involved),” Lacson said.
“The three (Revilla, Estrada, and Enrile) appeared to have received a lot, but there was one who got more whose name has yet to be mentioned,” he added.
Lacson said some of the senators who were listed by Napoles were “among those who were very vocal” against the pork barrel scam.
He added that the names of the senators in Napoles’ list will not reach 19 as reported earlier, but are “enough for a quorum”—meaning at least 13. Those involved from the House of Representatives listed are also enough to reach a quorum, he said.
Lacson said he felt that the affidavit given to him was not the “tell all” that he expected.
“I told (Jimmy) even if there are lawmakers who are their close friends, they should not be selective in disclosing names. I told him I was not obligating them to sign the document he was giving me, but what is important is that it should be complete and comprehensive so we can evaluate the information,” he said.
“I also received information from other sources that were missing from her narration so I told him (Jimmy) to complete it first,” Lacson added.
While he felt that the affidavit in his possession was incomplete, Lacson said it traced how the scam grew over the years since it started in 2005.
Lacson said he was not surprised by the names in the affidavit.
“I already had an idea because some of them were noisy, others were not that noisy and others were silent, but I have an idea they were involved in the pork [scam]. I was not stunned because it simply validated what I already knew,” Lacson said.
Sources said a senator, who was not investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation, was a frequent visitor at Napoles’ JLN Office in Ortigas, Pasig City.
One of the whistleblowers in the case also mentioned this senator.
Lacson said after meeting Napoles’ husband Jimmy and children either on March 24 or March 25, he received several files, including a “revealing” phone conversation saved on a USB stick.
“Anyway, this has no value as evidence since this is a telephone conversation. But it’s revealing. There were revelations there that were a bit shocking,” he said, but declined to say who was on the recorded phone call.
Lacson said Napoles reached out to him through a mutual friend, then her husband.
He remembered that at one point during their meeting, Napoles’ husband tried to contact her so she could talk to Lacson, but Lacson declined.
“I told him that Napoles and I can talk if she is already determined [to tell all],” Lacson said.
He urged the Napoles camp to complete the documents before they talk again.
Lacson, an administration ally, also said he did not inform President Benigno Aquino III of his meeting with the Napoles camp, since he felt the documents were ot complete.
He said the documents included a list of lawmakers who involved in the scam.
Lacson said Napoles’ husband sought his help to gain immunity for his wife in exchange for telling everything she knew, but Lacson said only the Ombudsman could grant immunity.
De Lima on Wednesday refused to offer any new details about Napoles’ sworn statement, saying that her information still needed to be validated.
Napoles’ lawyer Bruce Rivera also disclosed that his client had indeed tagged more lawmakers in the scam but declined to name names.
“What I just can say at this point is that there are more names,” Rivera said, in a telephone interview.
Both De Lima and Rivera denied reports that 19 more senators had been implicated.
“The number 19 is false,” Rivera said.
De Lima assured the public that Napoles’ testimony would not be sanitized for political reasons.
“Don’t worry because we will not remove or add names there (in the list),” De Lima said, adding that they only wanted to validate the truthfulness of the information.
The Justice Secretary vowed to conduct “fair and thorough” evaluation of the information given by Napoles to determine their veracity by checking on documentary evidence. De Lima also admitted that Napoles has turned over some documents and vowed to produce more proof to back her claims.
De Lima said the information in the affidavit would be released to the public only after it had been validated.
Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Antonio Trillanes IV said Napoles could be spared from perjury charges if she confesses to her involvement in the scam and tells everything she knows about it, and apologizes to the Senate for lying about it.
During a Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam earlier, Napoles had denied any involvement in or knowledge of the scheme through which the development funds of lawmakers were channeled to bogus projects in exchange for kickbacks.
Both senators supported a proposal for the Blue Ribbon Committee to invite Napoles back to the Senate for another hearing on the scam.
They said, however, that Napoles must tell all at such a hearing, and that here testimony should be corroborated by other witnesses. With Rey E. Requejo