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MANILA, Philippines – If Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson wants to play a “Yes or No” game over a mysterious list, then Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is game.
Santiago fired back at Lacson for confirming that she is in his copy of the controversial Napoles list of lawmakers who allegedly dipped their hands in millions of pesos in pork barrel funds.
Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, other lawmakers Lacson named, warned him against falling for Napoles’ supposed squid tactics.
Before addressing the allegation, Santiago attacked Lacson tit-for-tat for naming her while willingly engaged in a “Yes or No” game on the ABS-CBN show Bandila.
“Anyone can make lists. I was told that there is a list entitled ‘Closeted gays or bisexuals in public service.’ I was given names, and I was requested to say ‘Yes or No’ on whether the person was truly in the list. When the name Pinky Lacson was called, I said, ‘Yes,’” Santiago said in a statement on Tuesday, May 13.
Santiago also took issue with Lacson’s confirmation despite having only an unsigned affidavit of Napoles.
“Anyway, there is an affidavit, although unsigned, circulating in Metro Manila that Pinky Lacson has asked for leave of absence from Malacañang. The highly confidential reason is that he is scheduled for a gender change operation in a remote clinic in the United States.”
It was only toward the end of Santiago’s statement that she addressed the allegation.
“For the record, I never had dealings with Napoles. The Napoles list, if unsigned, has no evidentiary value at all. I repeat, Lacson is an attack dog of Enrile. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that to allege is not proof. Where is the evidence, as defined in the Rules of Court?”
The senator reiterated that she is pushing to summon the list of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, saying documents and details substantiate his list.
Santiago was responding to Lacson’s interview on Monday night, where he confirmed via “Yes or No” that she, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Senators Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Gregorio Honasan II were in his copy of the list.
The list reportedly includes the names of 21 senators, over 100 congressmen, and executive officials allied with the administration that alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles implicated.
With multiple and different copies of circulating, the list sparked speculation and confusion on its actual contents. The Senate blue ribbon committee already ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to submit the list and signed affidavit Napoles gave her by Thursday.
‘Why fall for Napoles tactic?’
Like Santiago, Escudero reiterated that he did not allocate his pork barrel funds to Napoles NGOs. He said the allegation did not bother him.
“Bahagi na ng trabaho namin iyan. Lahat na natawag sa akin: lasenggo, addict, bakla, smuggler, inaagaw ang grocery at sasakyan ng girlfriend. Lahat na iyon, sama-sama,” he said. (That is part of our job. They already called me all sorts of names: drunkard, addict, gay, smuggler, someone who steals the groceries and car of his girlfriend. All of those, together.)
The senator questioned why Lacson and De Lima were falling for a supposed tactic of Napoles to lend their credibility to her to muddle the issue.
“Tila nagiging tagapagsalita, messenger, at ahente sila ni Napoles at imbis na si Napoles na walang kredibildad at minsan nagsinungaling [ang magsalita], sila nagsisilbing tagapagsalita at mukhang galing sa kanila,” Escudero said.
(It seems they are now the spokespersons, messengers and agents of Napoles. Instead of Napoles who is without credibility being the one to speak, they are the ones talking and it seems the information is coming from them.)
Escudero said Lacson’s confirmation gave the impression that the secretary implicated him when it was Napoles’ husband who did so.
The senator also pointed out that the names Lacson confirmed were those who played a key role in the investigation of the scam. He said Napoles’ motive was clear.
“To confuse, drag other people’s names, particularly those named by Secretary Lacson are the ones leading the investigation: me, Miriam, Senator Cayetano. I filed the resolution to investigate this, asked for a subpoena and called for Napoles to be transferred to an ordinary jail,” Escudero said.
He reiterated his stand that the confusion will only be resolved by summoning Napoles and all of those who claimed to have a copy of the list.
Cayetano agreed with Escudero, calling the Napoles list a “weapon of mass destruction” meant to confuse issues. He again denied giving funds to Napoles, saying the paper trail will sort out all the accusations.
Honasan did not respond to requests for comment.
Legarda, Marcos: No deal with Napoles
Two other senators implicated in other versions of the list, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and Loren Legarda, also denied dealing with Napoles. They said they will wait for the list from De Lima.
Marcos said, “I’ve said it before. Everyone else, they found a photo [with Napoles]. I have no photo. I have no contact. That, I’m very, very confident about because that is the truth.”
Legarda also distanced herself from Napoles. “I never endorsed NGOs. I gave my pork barrel funds to accredited agencies of government and local governments, in accordance with law.”
Legarda said she reviewed her records for all 3 terms as senator. She admitted meeting Napoles in social functions but denied befriending her.
“We saw her in functions, hotels and restaurants. It was the functions of other senators. I don’t want to mention who. You know who they are,” Legarda said.
Abad: Not true
Abad strongly denied any involvement in the pork barrel scam or Napoles and urged the public not to accept the allegations at face value.
“I have never dealt with Janet Lim Napoles or any of her fake NGOs in any way throughout my career in public service: either as representative of Batanes, as Budget and Management Secretary, or as an official of any other public office that has been entrusted to me,” he said.
Abad served as education secretary during the Arroyo administration but resigned with other Cabinet officials in 2005 due to allegations of election fraud against the Arroyo camp.
Abad, who stressed that his professional life has been devoted to reforms in public governance, said that until the “true affidavit” of Napoles is released to the public backed by hard evidence, “everything is speculation, if not total fabrication, at this point.”
“I ask the public not to immediately believe these allegations, but to weigh the only thing that matters in the end: the evidence. I urge the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to continue their investigation, follow the evidence wherever it may lead them, and take appropriate action on behalf of the people,” he said.
The budget chief said all of the projects that he had sponsored under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when I was a legislator “are above board.”
“None have been coursed through any fake NGO. Unlike other personalities dragged into the PDAF Scam of 2007-2009, who have been implicated by evidence and testimony by whistleblowers, nothing credible has been brought against me – but rather, unfounded allegations and malicious name-calling,” he said.
Abad said he had long accepted the fact that he would dragged into controversies because of the nature of his work at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the Aquino administration, which has been advocating reforms in public expenditures and disbursements.
“I find it amusing, if not outright revolting, that I am once again in the crosshairs of those who want the Aquino Administration to fall….As 2016 draws near, I am sure that there would be more absurd allegations,” he said.
Abad said, however, that he remained confident that the public can discern between fact and fiction. – Rappler.com