Enrile: ‘Mastermind’ report outrageous, fake
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile bristled at a Philippine Daily Inquirer report tagging him, not Janet Lim Napoles, as the mastermind of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
“This is merely the latest and most outrageous of a series of supposed leaks by the Inquirer, clearly intended to malign and defame [me],” Enrile said in a statement on Thursday, November 21.
The former Senate President was reacting to an Inquirer report that an investigative team of the Office of the Ombudsman supposedly named him as the scam mastermind.
The Inquirer said it obtained an 8-page memorandum prepared by Assistant Ombudsman Joselito Fangon that stated, “Clearly, no matter how layered the scheme may have been perpetrated or unrelated the players may appear, all facts point to Senator Enrile as the unseen hand directing the compass and the tempo of the whole orchestra.”
In an interview at the Senate Thursday morning, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said there was no such memo.
She said, “I am surprised by that 8-page memo. There's no such thing as 8-page memo. I have several memos. I don't recall about an 8-page memo but the memo I received is more than 200 pages.”
In a statement Thursday afternoon, the Office of the Ombudsman also said Morales had denied the existence of the 8-page memo tagging Enrile as the mastermind “as one national daily reported today.”
The Inquirer though stood by its story, saying the 8-page memo comprised of the "introductory and dispositive portions in the 246-page Fangon memorandum."
Still, Enrile thanked Morales for denying the Inquirer story, saying he already instructed his lawyers “to request the Ombudsman to investigate and discipline all those involved in the leak of an inexistent report including but not limited to securing emails and phone records of the persons from the Ombudsman’s Office and the Inquirer named in the report.”
“This pattern is clearly designed to try him by publicity,” said Enrile’s office. “This is a violation of due process and a clear breach of journalistic ethics.”
Enrile’s lawyers are writing the newspaper to demand an apology and “to require that the Ombudsman’s denial be given the same prominence as that of the false report.”
“He demands the Inquirer to cooperate fully with the Ombudsman’s investigation of this fake leak and disclose who is responsible for it,” said Enrile’s office.
Enrile also urged the National Press Club to call the attention of the Inquirer, its publishers, editors and reporters “to be fair and circumspect in its future reporting.”
The minority leader’s office said Enrile maintains his innocence and determination to cooperate with the Ombudsman probe.
Enrile is among 38 individuals facing a plunder and graft complaint for the scam along with Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, and Napoles. The lawmakers are accused of siphoning off their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
Enrile’s rival, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago had pointed to Enrile as the scam mastermind. She said Napoles does not have the “sophistication” to hatch such an elaborate scheme involving high levels of government.
Ombudsman orders accused to respond
In a press statement Thursday, the Office of the Ombudsman said its special panel of investigators ordered Napoles, Enrile, Revilla, Estrada and their co-respondents to file counter-affidavits “and other controverting evidence” within 10 days from the receipt of the order.
The Ombudsman panel issued separate orders dated November 19 after evaluating the complaint that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed last September.
The Ombudsman said the panel “found enough basis to proceed with the preliminary investigation of the 3 separate complaints against Senators Revilla, Estrada, Enrile and their respective sets of respondents-public employees and non-governmental organization officers.”
“Failure to file their Counter-Affidavit(s)/evidence, with proof of service thereof to complainants, within the aforesaid period shall be deemed a waiver of respondents’ right to submit controverting evidence and the preliminary investigation shall proceed accordingly,” the order stated.
The Ombudsman said its panel will issue the next round of orders to file counter-affidavits in relation to the complaints against members of the House of Representatives and related complaints.
De Lima: All charged are conspirators
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also commented on the Inquirer report.
“As far as the NBI is concerned, all those charged are conspirators. Each participated in a grand conspiracy to steal public funds in varying roles and degrees of culpability. The act of one is the act of all.”
The Secretary also responded to Santiago’s suggestion that Napoles should turn state witness. Santiago reiterated her proposal following the Inquirer story.
“[Napoles] should first admit her participation in the criminal conspiracy before we can ever consider her as state witness. She has not done so. We all saw her stance during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing," De Lima said.
Lawyers have said that an accused can only turn state witness if he or she is not the most guilty.
When she testified before the Senate, Napoles denied any involvement in the scam and even said “there is no scam.” – Rappler.com