Escudero: De Lima acting as Napoles’ lawyer
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Escudero said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima acted as the lawyer of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in submitting the controversial Napoles list to the Senate.
A day after the signed Napoles list including his name was made public, Escudero said De Lima should have been more circumspect in turning over the one-page list and accepting it in the first place. The list supposedly names the officials involved in the pork barrel scam but has no heading or description whatsoever.
Escudero said instead of allowing Napoles to submit a signed list, De Lima should have demanded that the alleged mastermind execute a sworn statement.
“In fact, Secretary De Lima [was] acting lawyer for Napoles [in] submitting [the list] to the Senate. Instead of the lawyer of Napoles submitting the list to the Senate, now it seems Secretary De Lima is validating everything on the list but she cannot do that,” Escudero said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Friday, May 16.
A lawyer, Escudero contrasted De Lima’s actions with reports that the Ombudsman turned down a similar offer from Napoles.
“The Ombudsman, if the story is correct, properly and correctly turned it down and said allegedly, ‘You reduce that into an affidavit and have your lawyers submit to me.’ It should be that way. Not to have Mr [Jaime] Napoles offer this to Secretary Ping [Lacson]. Secretary Ping accepted it and likewise offered it. Janet Napoles gave it to Secretary De Lima. Secretary De Lima studied it and released it by installment.”
Escudero added, "The good question to ask Secretary De Lima is: do they already have a deal? Why is she acting [as] a lawyer and going to the [extent of] vetting the affidavit, drafting the affidavit, typing the affidavit? It should be the lawyers' draft. Is [Napoles] already under Witness Protection Program? A state witness?"
After calling on Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson not to fall for Napoles’ trap to muddle the issue, Escudero issued a similar appeal to De Lima.
“I don’t think she should let Napoles use her. Tama na po. Sana huwag kayo magpagamit. At sana kung anuman ang affidavit niya, hayaan ninyo na ho ‘yung mga abogado niya ang gumawa,” Escudero said. (Please stop it. Don’t allow yourself to be used. Whatever affidavit you have, just let her lawyer craft and submit it.)
The senator granted the interview a day after De Lima submitted to the Senate the signed Napoles list. She asked for a one-week extension to submit the affidavit of Napoles, saying the alleged brains behind the scheme and her lawyers are still preparing it.
De Lima did not want to submit the list without the affidavit and what she called a "vetting and verification process" but Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto "TG" Guingona III insisted that the list be submitted Thursday.
The controversy over the Napoles lists began when De Lima announced on April 22 that she met with Napoles, who offered to “tell all” about the pork barrel scam months after testifying under oath at the Senate that she knew nothing.
De Lima said Napoles named officials in their 5-hour meeting but the justice secretary refused to disclose the names, except for the 3 opposition senators already indicted for plunder: Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile. The announcement sparked calls for De Lima to release the full list and not to “sanitize it” amid reports administration allies were included.
Lacson then revealed that Napoles’ husband also gave him a copy of an unsigned list and affidavit in March. President Benigno Aquino III and whistleblower Sandra Cam later admitted seeing and having copies of the list, with the President saying the names and numbers varied.
The existence of different lists sparked confusion and questions about Napoles’ credibility and motive. (READ: How credible is Janet Napoles?)
'No P500,000 from Napoles'
Escudero also addressed the statement of lawyer Levito Baligod that he has a witness that said that the senator allegedly received P500,000 from Napoles. The former lawyer of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy disclosed this in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Bandila Thursday night.
“I categorically deny it. To me, where is the affidavit? Where did she give me the money? So I can answer this straight. It’s so hard to explain this way,” Escudero said.
The senator cannot recall meeting Napoles but said his staff “reminded” him that he met her “a long time ago” when he was Sorsogon Representative.
“I don’t remember when and how, but it was Jenny Lim, not Janet Napoles,” he said, referring to Napoles’ nickname and maiden name.
He said the Commission on Audit (COA) report and the records of his pork barrel releases posted on his website will show he had no dealings with Napoles.
Escudero also pointed out the differences between the signed Napoles list and Luy’s records, as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“I am puzzled. I am the only one in the Napoles list who is not in the list of Baligod. There are those on Benhur’s list who are not in Napoles’ list,” he said, echoing an observation Baligod earlier made.
Escudero cited the example of Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who were named in the Inquirer report but not in the Napoles list.
“It’s curious. Why are there names on the [Luy] ledger that Napoles intentionally exclude from the list?”
Escudero refused to comment on speculation that the opposition had a hand in the Napoles list. He only pointed out that Napoles’ unsigned affidavit given to Lacson had close similarities to Estrada’s claims.
“The affidavit of Napoles based with Secterary Ping jives with [what] Senator Jinggoy is saying. The brains of the Malampaya [scam] is Ruby Tuason, according to the unsigned affidavit of Janet Napoles. Whether you believe that or not [is another thing] but that is similar to what Senator Estrada is saying.”
In a separate interview Friday, Vice President Jejomar Binay decried efforts to link him to the controversy.
A close ally of Estrada and Enrile, the opposition’s presidential bet in 2016 took exception to people using the phrase, “Napoles and your allies.”
“Bakit? Ano bang relasyon noon? Kasi merong mga nanglalason diyan ng utak na 'pagka naging presidente si Jojo Binay magkakaroon ng mga favorites. Abogado yata ako, alam ko lahat ng [batas]. Basta't may kaso, ihabla. Kung wala namang kaso, iabswelto.”
(Why? What is the connection? Because there are people poisoning the public’s mind that if Jojo Binay wins as president, he will play favorites. I am a lawyer and I know the law. If there is a case, file charges. If there is none, acquit.)
Binay said his critics cannot implicate him in the scam because he did not receive pork barrel as former Makati mayor. He got pork barrel as Vice President but decided to forego this after the scam broke out.
“Let me just say hindi ako involved diyan. Kahit na anong klaseng dawit ang gawin nila diyan, mayor pa ako noon. Never akong naging congressman, never naging senador.” (I am not involved there. Whatever effort they put into dragging my name, I was a mayor then. I never became congressman or senator.) – Rappler.com