MANILA, Philippines — They are two of the country’s high profile female lawyers, known for their strong personalities. In fact, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Lorna Kapunan used to be law partners.
Now, they find themselves on opposite sides of the country’s biggest controversy so far – the alleged multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
De Lima has thrown her full support behind the investigation of Kapunan’s client, Janet “Jenny” Lim Napoles, who is accused of having colluded with lawmakers for years to siphon off their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) using dummy foundations.
Napoles has denied this and claims she doesn’t have a single contract with the government.
De Lima and Kapunan were partners at the now dissolved law firm led by the late Senator Raul Roco, the Roco Buñag Kapunan Migallos law offices.
De Lima did not appreciate reports that her former law partner is calling for the creation of a new investigating body to look into the scam.
“With due respect to Attorney Lorna, it’s not for any party – especially those who are subjects of investigation – to impose or dictate on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice on what to do,” she told reporters on Tuesday, August 13, when she was sought for her reaction.
“Besides, it’s now a bigger and much enhanced team doing the probe into the Napoles-JLN scams, under the direct supervision of the Secretary of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation director Caesar Nonnatus Rojas,” De Lima added.
De Lima gave assurances that the NBI probe will be “fair, objective, and thorough.”
“We’re ever conscious that integrity and credibility are essential ingredients of any probe, especially high-profile cases like the Napoles-JLN scam,” De Lima said.
At the law firm, Kapunan outranked De Lima. She was a name partner while De Lima was one of the senior partners. De Lima left the law firm in 1998 to manage her own De Lima Law Firm that concentrated on election cases.
Kapunan would also form her own law firm in 2006, a year after Roco’s death. But the Kapunan Garcia and Castillo law offices is practically a revival of Roco’s dissolved law firm.
‘Out of context’
Kapunan told Rappler that her call for the creation of another investigative body was taken out of context.
She said she was reacting to announcements by the Senate and House of Representatives that they would not probe into the alleged scam.
“My statement was taken out of context. It was in reference to the Congress and Senate not conducting any investigation of the PDAF – which is expected as this would mean investigating their own peers. If this is such, then a higher Fact Finding Committee should be formed by the President to settle this PDAF issue once and for all as no one is above the law,” Kapunan said.
Kapunan said she is confident that De Lima will see that her client is innocent.
“I have no doubt as to the integrity of Secretary De Lima. We have full confidence that the ongoing NBI investigation under her supervision will be fair, objective, and thorough, and that she will be able to discern the credibility or lack of credibility of these self-proclaimed whistle blowers who have nothing but hearsay statements against Jenny Napoles — who now is being blamed for all the PDAF scams — and is the convenient scapegoat for all the mayors, senators, congressmen, secretaries, etc,” Kapunan said in a text message. – Rappler.com