De Lima raps Benhur Luy

Disowns deletion of files, blames witness

PORK barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy should explain the deletions on the hard drive he used to store records of illegal transactions with lawmakers and other government officials on behalf of his former boss, Janet Lim Napoles, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Sunday.

“It’s Benhur and his counsel who are in the best position to explain the deletions. That hard drive belongs to Benhur,” said De Lima, who said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which took custody of Luy last year, was not responsible for the deletions.

The NBI last week said some deleted files, including ones named “PINOY Request” and “Ochoa,” could no longer be retrieved.

De Lima said the NBI could not be accused of sanitizing the files because it was the bureau itself that brought the deletions to the attention of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is investigating the pork barrel scam.

“The NBI has nothing to do with those deletions. As a matter of fact, it’s the NBI, specifically the Cybercrime Division, which I tasked to do the examination or authentication of that hard disk drive, which detected those deletions,” she said.

“Any insinuations of santizing on our part is completely basesless,” she added.

De Lima issued the statement after several lawmakers demanded an explanation from the NBI.

Among them was Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, a senior administration lawmaker who said that since Luy’s hard disk drive was turned over to the NBI, critics might claim that the agency made the deletions to hide the names of officials allegedly involved in the scam.

The NBI obtained Luy’s documents detailing the pork barrel transactions from his hard drive on Jan. 28, but discovered that several files had been deleted.

Investigators said they were able to recover some deleted files, including the ones named “Tanda,” “Pogi,” “Sexy,” “Bonget,” “Dahon,” “Bigboy,” “Bonjing,” “RAD Secretary,” and “Commission on Appointments.”

The deleted files also mentioned surnames like Marcos, Sotto, Dangwa, Ochoa, Pangandaman, Ungab, Fuentebella, Valdez, Chiongbian, Rodriguez, Sandoval, Serapio, Lanete, Nieva, Jose, and Evangelista.

Also on Sunday, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the government should create an independent and autonomous Truth Commission to get to the bottom of the pork barrel scam.

Such a commission could be composed of respected persons, including retired justices, members from the academe and journalists, and would have the power to conduct hearings and subpoena witnesses and documents.

“There should be no bias and politics and the hearings should be opened to the public,” he added.

At the present, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III is already conducting an inquiry into the scam.

So far, Guingona’s panel had held 10 hearings, but Trillanes said this was not enough, because it has not uncovered even half of the truth.

He also said there was a cloud of doubt over the senators investigating an issue that involved many of their number.

Senator Francis Escudero, whose name appeared in the Napoles list, said he was ready to confront Napoles, who claimed she contributed to the senator’s presidential campaign in 2010.

Escudero denied the claim and noted that he withdrew from that race and supported the candidacy of President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay that year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, on the other hand, said Guingona’s panel should summon Luy again to explain the entries on his hard drive.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who was named in Luy’s list, said it was pointless to summon Luy again.

“Why even try to make sense out of useless nonsense? Time is better spent on real hard evidence, which should already be out there, not inside a hard disk drive,” he said.

Pimentel suggested that the Department of Justice follow the paper trail by gathering documents such as special allotment release orders, notices of cash allocation, checks and approvals.

“Let’s concentrate on evidence that can be used in the courts of law, not in the court of public opinion,” he said.

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