From lawmakers to lawyers to bishops to militant groups, there is a mounting clamor for the filing of charges against Budget chief Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala among other Palace allies implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
This time, it was the the turn of student- leaders to protest Malacanang’s alleged bias for the presidential allies while the House independent minority bloc renewed its call for an end to the selective prosecution of personalities implicated in the “pork” scandal.
This developed as Janet Lim Napoles, through her lawyer Steve David, reiterated her allegation that Abad was the mentor who helped Napoles set up non-government organizations as conduits of the pork barrel funds. “Even whistleblower Merlinas Sunas implicated Abad in the pork barrel misuse,” David said. Abad used to borrow money from JLN Co (Napoles’ company) which was returned with interest, David added.
Adding to the anti-pork sentiment, student activists held a rally at the Chino Roces Bridge near Malacañang Palace on Saturday to denounce the selective prosecution engineered by the Palace.
Charlotte Velasco of the League of Filipino Students said the government should not only charge opposition Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada but also some of the President’s men like Abad, Alcala and Joel Villanueva, director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes also questioned why Abad, Alcala and Villanueva have not been charged although they have been tainted by the pork scandal while the cases against other suspects were even railroaded.
“There are still others out there who need to be investigated, need to be charged. We’re talking about people who are members of the Cabinet of the Aquino administration, political allies in the Liberal Party,” Reyes said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Saturday.
Reyes said if no charges are filed against these Cabinet officials, it will only prove that the pork barrel scam is merely a political weapon of the Aquino administration.
Their sentiment on the issue was shared by House bloc leader Rep. Martin Romualdez who said all pork-tainted allies of the President should be charged with plunder and graft to ensure that the rule of law, justice and fairness apply to all.
Romualdez and his members vowed to dig deeper into the scam and continue pressing the administration for the same probe of personalities linked to the fraud. “there shuld be no political color and the President’s allies should be included.”
At the same time, Scrap Pork Network spokeswoman Michelle Estor agreed that the public should continue to demand accountability on the issue.
“Now is the time when we will see the strength of the cases that have been filed. So really, we have to be mindful of what we define as victory because not even conviction can be deemed a victory when after conviction you have people being pardoned.”
“The victory to me and to the Scrap Pork Network is really the eradication of the pork barrel system,” she said.
The three activists echoed the view of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines which has also questioned what it believed to be selective indictment of people linked to the scandal.
“There seems to be a selective justice,” IBP president Vicente Joyas. “We are all aware there are many people involved and yet only three are charged.”
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas also called on the government to prosecute all the personalities who have been implicated in the scam.
“Everybody culpable, whatever their political affiliations may be, should be investigated and, if so warranted, indicted. When justice is selective, it is not justice at all,” Villegas said.
But Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda has repeatedly insisted that the Aquino administration has not been selective in its quest for justice as only opposition senators have been slapped with plunder charges in connection with the scam.
“With respect to claims that why we are only going after the three—that is incorrect,” he said last week. “There are three sets of cases actually now in different stages of the proceedings.”
“All charges will be evaluated, whether you are friend or foe. We are color blind as to culpability,” Lacierda added.
President Aquino himself tried to deflect criticism that the prosecution was selective and argued that the scam was revealed during the 2013 elections, but he said the government did not take action until sufficient evidence was gathered.
“We followed the right process: we initiated an investigation, we gathered evidence, and now we have filed the appropriate cases,” Aquino said in Naga City.
“We could have railroaded the cases even without a strong basis just to demolish the names of the candidates who were implicated in the controversy, but we went through the right processes in ferreting the truth. And now they accuse us of politicizing the judicial process? We will let the people decide whose side they will take on this issue,” he added.
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