Ever since businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10 billion-pork barrel fund scam, met Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last April 22, speculations had reached fever-pitch.
If she will become a state-witness, what are the arrangements? Will she be compelled to name everyone who is involved in the scandal, regardless of party affiliation? Will she not be charged with plunder?
The story took an interesting turn when De Lima revealed that Napoles’ submitted to her a new list of lawmakers who benefited from the deep-rooted network of corruption as part of a sworn affidavit. The justice secretary described Napoles’ affidavit as a “tell all” of her role in the scam.
Aside from saying that Napoles’ affidavit strengthened the government’s case against Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile, De Lima did not mention the other lawmakers that the alleged “pork barrel queen” implicated in her deposition. She added though that the number of senators involved is already enough to constitute a quorum (perhaps inside the jail?).
It didn’t take long for these names to be publicized. The Daily Tribune ran an exclusive report last April 25 listing down not just three but twelve senators involved in the scandal: Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Francis Escudero, Tito Sotto, Franklin Drilon, and Miriam Defensor-Santago.
It must be emphasized though that Ninez Cacho-Olivares, Tribune publisher and one of the writers of the said story, is a member of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, the political party of Estrada and Enrile.
For his part, Panfilo Lacson, a former senator and current rehabilitation czar, pointed out that as much as 16 senators (enough to ratify a treaty, he said) took pork barrel kickbacks based on the list that Napoles’ camp gave to him early this year.
Lacson’s magic number is being corroborated by Sandra Cam, a former whistle-blower who claims that she has a copy of Napoles’ list.
For the last two weeks, De Lima has steadfastly rejected calls for her to release the names of the individuals that Napoles tagged in her affidavit. She said all information provided by Napoles needs to be vetted first by witnesses like Benhur Luy.
The delay needless to say prompted speculations that efforts are being done to protect administration allies who are part of the scandal, a possibility raised by Lacson himself. To smooth things out, De Lima said she intends to contact Lacson to compare their respective lists.
Talk about strange bedfellows. Remember those days when De Lima was spearheading efforts to run after Lacson when he went into hiding overseas for almost a year? Anyway, let’s process the details again.
Napoles submitted to De Lima last April 22 a list of lawmakers she did business with. Months before she met De Lima, she gave a similar list to Lacson. The Daily Tribune and Sandra Cam also claim to have a copy of Napoles’ list from their respective sources.
(Note: Appearing before the Senate last November, Napoles said under oath that she has no knowledge about the pork barrel fund scam).
To erase doubts, everyone who received a copy of Napoles’ list should come forward so the public can compare the names listed there. It is the only way we can determine if dagdag-bawas really happened. Now, here are questions that need to be answered definitively:
- Did Napoles give different versions of her list to different people? If yes, why did she do it?
- Or, is someone else behind her decision to make alterations in her list?
- If Napoles is the one responsible for the dagdag-bawas in the names included in her list, what does this say about her credibility as a potential state witness?