De Lima to Cunanan: Rectify yourself on PDAF kickbacks
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday, March 7, that she is giving potential state witness Dennis Cunanan a chance to admit that he had received kickbacks.
De Lima said in an interview with reporters that such an admission would not affect Cunanan's bid to become state witness, which was questioned by some senators at the hearing on the pork barrel scam on Thursday.
"Because of his denial [that he got kickbacks]…we are giving him a chance to explain himself or to rectify himself in that regard. Will he continue to profess such innocence when it comes to the issue of whether or not he received kickback?" De Lima said.
De Lima indicated that the justice department has so far every reason to believe principal whistleblower and only state witness Benhur Luy on the scam because he's been "consistently credible" so far.
Luy contradicted Cunanan's claim during the Senate hearing, saying he remembered being instructed by alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to prepare P960,000 in a paper bag when Cunanan arrived at their office; Cunanan left the office carrying that paper bag.
"Benhur, he remains to be a very credible witness…. Benhur Luy has not given us reasons or indications to doubt his credibility so far, his credibility and credibility of his story about the whole PDAF scam," she said.
Testifying before the Senate blue ribbon committee on March 6, Cunanan professed his innocence in the pork barrel scam when grilled about the kickback he reportedly received from Napoles.
Cunanan's name appeared in Luy's affidavit dated September 12, 2013, as among those who had allegedly received a 10% commission from the pork barrel releases of lawmakers to Napoles' fake non-governmental organizations coursed through some government agencies.
De Lima said she has conveyed the message to the camp of Cunanan, who has as legal counsel Levito Baligod, the former lawyer of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
One of the reasons Luy dropped Baligod as counsel was precisely because he saw Baligod's services to Cunanan as a conflict of interest – because he knew his and Cunanan's testimonies would contradict each other.
"I have conveyed to the camp of Cunanan [that] I'm giving him a chance to rectify himself on that issue. Will he really stand by it or what can he tell us on that so that we would know, on the side of the DOJ Witness Protection Program, what the next step would be," De Lima said.
The DOJ chief declined to comment on whether she now doubts Cunanan, after the Senate hearing on Thursday where the Technology Resource Center chief and Luy had clashing testimonies on the former's receipt of kickbacks.
"It's up to you to interpret what I said. It would be unfair if I say something categorical," she said.
De Lima said, however, that an admission from Cunanan would not affect his bid to become a state witness.
"He can admit it. It won't affect his being a state witness," she said, but added that the DOJ cannot force Cunanan to make a categorical response.
She said that while she could not blame senators who questioned Cunanan's credibility as a state witness but "what happened yesterday should be balanced with the value of his testimony."
"That's what we are more focused on," De Lima said.
She said the "substantive aspect" of Cunanan, or his testimony, is "good since we heard so many important things from him."
Responding to questions, De Lima said the contradiction between the testimony of Cunanan and Luy "would really affect his [Cunanan's] status" as a potential state witness but for now, she would "not want to make a definitive action" on the matter at this point. – Rappler.com