MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced on Monday, July 15, that the whistleblower in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, Benhur Luy, and his family will be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) anytime.
“Because of the heat that was generated by the series of exposés, I advised Benhur, through their counsel, to be placed under WPP as soon as possible,” De Lima said in a press conference.
The justice secretary said she reiterated her offer to Luy and other members of his family after they initially refused.
Based on affidavits signed by Luy and other witnesses, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that up to P10 billion in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of some senators and congressmen had been channelled to bogus non-governmental organizations controlled by a syndicate headed by Janet Lim Napoles.
Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged President Benigno Aquino III to appoint a 3-member panel of special prosecutors to probe the scam, and issue a resolution within 30 days.
But Senator Franklin Drilon said he is confident that De Lima can conduct an impartial probe, despite earlier resolution filed by Senator Francis Escudero directing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the scheme.
De Lima said that upon knowing Luy’s allegations in March, she “constituted a very small team of trusted investigators,” which included NBI director Nonnatus Rojas to conduct an investigation on the alleged scheme.
She said they kept the investigation “under wraps” because they did not want to make any mistakes, given the “gravity” of the exposé.
While Luy named in his affidavit at least 5 senators and 23 congressmen and congresswomen who supposedly got kickbacks for allowing their PDAFs to go to fake NGOs, De Lima refused to name them at the press conference.
She said she wouldn’t name them until they have completed the evidence that would allow them to file charges with the appropriate body.
“Meron siguro talagang ibang involved na mga lawmakers whether senators or congressmen but as to whether sila lahat yan, or ilan-ilan lang diyan, that’s actually part of the investigation,” De Lima explained. (There might be lawmakers involved, whether senators or congressmen, but as to whether [those on the list] are all involved, or just some of them, will be part of the investigation.)
De Lima said she couldn’t give a deadline for the investigation, given the gravity of the alleged scam. She also said the DOJ has been coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in the investigation. – Rappler.com