LP disowns mayor, mum on Drilon-Napoles link

But government's news releases say Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque was an ally. Party statement fails to address allegations that PDAF scam mastermind was a campaign donor.

SINCE 2005? Sandra Cam claims Drilon knew Napoles since 2005 but the Senate President has said he only knows Napoles as an acquaintance he met in social gatherings. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The ruling Liberal Party (LP) disowned a supposed associate of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles. Yet it failed to answer questions about Napoles’ ties with its stalwart, Senate President Franklin Drilon.

In a statement posted on its website, the LP denied fielding Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque as its official candidate in the 2013 polls. The party said he is neither a member nor an official of the LP, contrary to claims of whistleblower Sandra Cam in a story of the Manila Standard Today on Monday, October 14.

A party spokesman also branded as a lie Cam’s claim that Napoles donated P100 million to the senatorial campaign of the President’s party.

It was the LP, not Drilon, that issued a statement refuting the story. 

In the story, Cam said that Drilon and Napoles knew each other way back in 2005, when Napoles supposedly introduced Maglanque to the Senate President “to get the mayor off the hook from a jueteng (illegal numbers game) probe in the Senate.”

Cam described Maglanque as “the biggest jueteng bagman” and an “untouchable operator and troubleshooter in the Arroyo administration who managed to cross over to the Aquino clique.” Cam said Maglanque was Napoles’ associate in the Department of Transportation and Communications, where he was assistant secretary.

She said Maglanque became the official LP candidate for Candaba mayor in May 2013 and even a provincial whip. Cam also called Napoles Drilon’s “biggest financier,” saying she gave P100 million for the campaign of the administration ticket Team PNoy.

LP spokesman and former Quezon Representative Erin Tañada said in the statement Monday that Cam’s claims were “fuelled by malice and were full of inconsistencies.”

“Mayor Maglanque is not an LP member. You can check the Comelec website and you will see that Maglanque filed as an independent candidate in the last elections and not under the LP,” Tañada said. 

Tañada added that the LP “has no hand in the selection of candidates in Candaba.”

Another LP spokesperson, Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, also refuted Cam’s claims.

“Sandra Cam is lying through her teeth when he claimed that LP leaders are under the payroll of Napoles and that Napoles gave money to the LP campaign kitty during the last elections. Those statements are extremely reckless and irresponsible. Media should ignore her,” Evardone said in the LP statement.

Napoles is accused of conniving with lawmakers to channel their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to her fake non-governmental organizations. She allegedly gave them kickbacks as big as 50% of ghost projects in return.

Gov’t releases say he’s an LP ally

A check of the list of the official candidates in the Commission on Elections website shows that Maglanque indeed ran as independent, and there was no LP candidate for Candaba mayor in the May polls. 

Yet in a story reported by the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) in June, Maglanque said he entered into a “strong alliance with the Liberal Party.” He even thanked “LP partymates” for helping ensure the construction of major roads in Candaba.

The PNA story said, “Maglanque’s quest for the local chief executive position was backed by President Benigno Aquino III, Senator Franklin Drilon and other Liberal Party leaders who came in town during the campaign season.”

A March report of Sun Star Pampanga also said Maglanque joined the Team PNoy senatorial candidates in a Pampanga sortie, where he was quoted as saying, “Ngayon kakampi natin ang Malacañang, ‘yung pag-unlad na pinapangarap natin ay malapit na, kaya Candaba mag-isip ka.” (Now that Malacañang is our ally, we are about to reach the progress we are dreaming of so Candaba, think hard.)

Another report by Pampanga Today said that during the campaign, Maglanque “actively pushed for the senatorial candidates of the ruling party to ensure their victory in town. He campaigned under the slogan of vote straight Team PNoy.”

In a photo Cam provided the Manila Standard, Drilon was seen standing beside Maglanque on the campaign stage along with the then Team PNoy senatorial bets in a Pampanga sortie.

She also gave a photo of a banner in Candaba that Maglanque put up welcoming Napoles and her family to his oath-taking last June but they were unable to attend.

A screenshot of the Manila Standard article and the photo Cam provided showing Drilon with Maglanque in an LP campaign sortie, and a separate photo of a streamer Maglanque put up welcoming the Napoles family

Axe to grind vs ‘selective amnesia’

While the LP addressed Cam’s claims about Maglanque’s membership in the party, it was silent about questions the story raised regarding Drilon’s ties with Napoles.

Instead, the LP statement said Drilon has “consistently denied any involvement with Napoles.”

After photos of him and Napoles circulated in September, Drilon admitted meeting Napoles in social gatherings “less than 10 times.” Yet he said he cannot remember when the party was held, who introduced her to him, and how she was introduced. Drilon emphasized that none of his pork barrel funds went to Napoles’ fake NGOs.

Cam said in the Manila Standard story that it was Ruby Tuason who introduced Drilon to Napoles. Tuason faces a complaint before the Ombudsman for both the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams. Tuason was the social secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, and was married to the late cousin of former presidential spouse Mike Arroyo.

Evardone said Cam just has an axe to grind against Drilon after the Senate President withdrew the security personnel assigned to her when she testified in the Senate probe into the jueteng payola scam in 2005.

“According to Senate records, Cam really enjoyed this privilege to the point that she abused these services, even incurring P700,000 in expenses. For one, she made the security personnel as her houseboy and driver. Second, she abused the signing privilege at the Senate lounge. It is for these reasons that her security personnel have been withdrawn,” Evardone said.

Evardone added that Cam was just “trying to hog the headlines.”

Cam said though that Drilon was not being truthful in explaining his ties with Napoles. She said this was the primary reason he “was doing his best not to summon Napoles to testify.” Drilon is against issuing a subpoena for Napoles to the Senate pork barrel scam probe for now, saying it might compromise the Ombudsman investigation.

Cam said: “I am coming out in the open to expose the hypocrisy of Drilon, the Liberal Party and the Aquino administration because I cannot allow Drilon, Roxas, Ochoa and other members of the LP to pretend they were struck by selective amnesia to claim they did not know Napoles or Maglanque.” – Rappler.com