Cayetano: Napoles ‘list’ retaliation for Binay criticism
MANILA, Philippines – “This is really muddling the issue.”
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano believes a newspaper report tagging him in the pork barrel scam was in retaliation for his criticism of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
However, Cayetano, who flatly denied involvement in the scam, stopped short of accusing Binay and Estrada of having a hand in the release of the Daily Tribune report.
“There are people behind this. It’s too much of a coincidence that their (Tribune) columnists have been attacking me, that Sandra Cam is close to [the Estradas]. They have everything to gain…. I cannot shake off the suspicion that this has something to do with me being hard on Jinggoy and Vice President Binay,” Cayetano said in a press briefing in Taguig on Friday, April 25.
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Asked if the report had anything to do with the 2016 polls where he and Binay are both eyeing the presidency, Cayetano said: “Yes. They are trying to hit many birds with one stone: the pork barrel case, 2016, everything.”
Cayetano had criticized Binay for statements that supposedly weakened the prosecution of his allies.
The senator was responding to the Tribune report that quoted anonymous sources claiming to be privy to the affidavit of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. The newspaper named two Cabinet secretaries as the supposed real masterminds, and that somebody higher in the Executive also benefitted from the scam.
The report said Napoles also named 12 senators including Cayetano, and indicted senators Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada.
The majority leader said he is willing to respond to the allegations, in the same way that he challenged Estrada to answer the charges.
“I can look people in the eye and say that I have nothing to do with this. [If the allegations are proven,] I won’t just resign but even ask the Ombudsman to charge me,” Cayetano said.
He said he is willing to face Napoles in a Senate hearing or any other venue. “Now that my name reportedly came out, all the more I want her to attend the hearing. I want Napoles to testify and tell me where me met and how, and I will respond. Or if not in the committee, name the place and time and let’s invite the media so we can respond to each other in a civilized manner.”
Cayetano said he did not receive budgetary insertions, especially for “soft projects,” during the Arroyo administration and the first half of the Aquino administration because he was part of the minority. Cayetano was Senate minority leader.
“It seems senators Enrile and Jinggoy forgot that they only became opposition in 2013. From 2010 to 2013, they were allies of PNoy and we were the rivals,” he said.
Cayetano said that there were only a few times he endorsed non-governmental organizations when he was a Taguig congressman.
“When we were congressmen, the Cooperative Development Authority allowed cooperatives. Aside from that, I do not remember any NGO [where my PDAF] was withheld. They can release the documents,” Cayetano said.
“I am asthmatic, but I can breathe easy because I did not steal anything or gave money to Napoles NGOs,” he quipped.
Cayetano also defended his elder sister, Senator Pia Cayetano, who was named in the list. The female Cayetano is in Europe and has yet to respond to the report.
“If I am strict [with my funds], Senator Pia is 10 times stricter. I’ve never known her to be involved in any anomaly.”
‘Be professional, name names’
The release of the report prompted the younger Cayetano and other senators to reiterate their call for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Senator Panfilo Lacson to release the names of the lawmakers Napoles named.
“Every day there is speculation. The Cabinet owes it to us, especially allies in the Senate, to be forthright. Every day they do not release the list, names are added or reduced,” Cayetano said.
Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III said the same thing. “The DOJ should release the list. Otherwise, all legislators are suspect. That is terribly unfair.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also said De Lima must tell the public what Napoles told her.
De Lima on Thursday indicated that Napoles' list of lawmakers is longer than that provided by whistleblowers who used to work for her. Some senators and congressmen, she said, may have dealt directly with Napoles.
‘Senate royal rumble’
Cayetano maintained that the Tribune report and the opposition were only out to “muddle the issue” that is the indictment of Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla over the scam.
He said the only way to clarify all the insinuations was for De Lima and the Commission on Audit to release documents, and to settle these in a Senate hearing.
“This is a royal rumble. We are not just talking about funds, family life, or career here. We are talking about liberty so they are throwing everything at people like me,” he said. “A Senate hearing is an orderly way, not a battle royal or a royal rumble in the media or a privilege speech.”
Following reports that half of the Senate was implicated, Cayetano said he was willing to support calls to replace corrupt senators but with a qualification.
“People will demand that either the whole Senate or most of the senators resign. I will support it if it’s proven that most senators are corrupt. We have to call a new election for senators but if it’s only 3 or 5, they should face the music.” – Rappler.com