SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday denounced what she called the “trinity of unholy conspirators” made up of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, his former chief of staff Jessica “Gigi” Reyes and rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson, accusing them of engaging in a “massive psywar operation.”
Describing Lacson as “Enrile’s ally and attack dog,” Santiago said she doubted the authenticity of the list he claimed to have received from the husband of the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim Napoles, showing the names of lawmakers who were involved in the scheme.
“Why would Lacson come forward with a spurious document, one month after he claims that it was handed to him?” she asked.
Santiago said Lacson’s claims are “so full of holes that it’s like a sieve.”
She said it was “incredible” that the Napoles family would choose to reach out to Lacson, who was no longer a senator but a presidential assistant, when they could have easily contacted other officials close to President Benigno Aquino III.
She also said Lacson had no legal basis for “whatever he thinks he is doing.”
“Remember, he is not even a lawyer, but a policeman with a very shadowy background,” she said.
Lacson, an ally of President Aquino, warned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Wednesday not to sanitize the list given her by Napoles.
The list, reportedly contained additional names of senators, congressmen, and other government officials, including allies of the President, involved in the pork barrel scam.
Lacson said he received a draft of Napoles’ affidavit and the list of names from Napoles’ husband and two children, who met him on March 24 or March 25.
He said the list contained the names of enough senators and congressmen to constitute a quorum.
But Santiago said there was a “vast, costly and sinister disinformation operation” to pressure the Ombudsman into granting the motions for reconsideration of Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who are accused of plunder.
“Enrile, 90, is facing suspension from office as senator, and imprisonment in a detention cell while facing trial. He is desperate to prevent the Ombudsman from filing the case against him in court,” Santiago said.
She also wondered about the whereabouts of Reyes who arrived in the country last week saying she was ready to face the charges against her.
Reyes is a co-accused of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and about 30 others in the plunder complaint filed by the Ombudsman with the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan.
“Where is Reyes? Nobody knows,” said Santiago. She had earlier called on Reyes to turn state witness to help the government pin down all those responsible in the pork barrel scam.
Santiago urged the public to “keep your composure and remain level-headed” amid what she called a “massive psywar disinformation campaign using pork barrel kickbacks.”
The campaign, she said, would seek to discredit the Aquino administration and distract public attention from the trial and prosecution of those charged with plunder.
“This is a diversionary tactic, very similar to the so-called Zamboanga uprising. Both are bankrolled heavily, because they are intended to forcibly turn public attention away from the criminal culpability of those charged with plunder. For the respondents, this is a desperate make-or-break situation,” she said.
Santiago a member of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is investigating the pork barrel scam, earlier urged the panel’s chairman, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, to recall Napoles to the witness stand.
But Guingona said he is not inclined to reopen the hearings until he obtains a copy of Napoles’ affidavit.
“The Blue Ribbon Committee has opted to take the prudent course regarding this matter,” said Guingona in a statement, and would wait for De Lima to finish documenting Napoles’ disclosures.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano disagreed.
“Once she is physically well, why wait? It is our obligation to immediately know what she will say,” said Cayetano, an ex-officio member of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Napoles, who has been detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, remains at Ospital ng Makati after undergoing surgery to remove her uterus.
Santiago expressed doubts, however, of Napoles’ credibility, saying her former employees who documented the pork barrel dealings never mentioned the other public officials that Napoles is set to reveal.
But Napoles’ lawyer, Bruce Rivera, said he expected that those who would be named by Napoles would try to cast doubt on her credibility.
“Well, we expected that the people who will be affected by her testimony will sow seeds of doubt to make the people question her credibility. However, I hope the Filipino will exercise prudence and listen to what she has to say first before making any judgement,” he said.
Rivera also brushed aside suggestion that Napoles could face perjury charges for denying her invovlement in the pork barrel scam before the Senate.
“Of course she was scared to face the Senate because she would be implicating several members of the very same house that will investigate [the case],” he said.
Dennis Manalo, the lawyer of socialite Ruby Tuason who was also implicated in the scam, earlier expressed concerns over the possibility of Napoles turning state witness.
He said Napoles is not qualified to become a state witness given her previous denials in the Senate hearing.
“The difficult thing is we do not know when she is telling the truth and when she is lying,” Manalo said.
Tuason and other witnesses have risked their lives when they divulged what they knew, the lawyer said.
“That is something that should be thoroughly studied and seriously considered by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan when the case reaches the court,” he said.
Rivera said his client is willing to tell the truth even without the guarantee of being admitted as a state witness or immunity from suit.
Also on Thursday, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Napoles could not be charged with perjury because all she did was invoke her right against self incrimination during the Senate hearings.
Ako-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, on the other hand, said the pork barrel scandal was “becoming a joke.”
“I am dazed, bewildered and confused as a result of wild stories circulating. I would not be surprised if next time everybody wants to sing a different tune,” he said.
He said the recent developments, including De Lima’s announcement that Napoles was ready to spill the beans was part of a “grand plan” to sow confusion among the judges.
“The desired result will be to afflict Sandiganbayan justices with the confused-dazed-bewildered virus,” Batocabe said.
1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said there was no need for the Senate to reopen its hearings, since the case can be heard in court. With Joel Zurbano and Maricel V. Cruz