Aquino photo with young Napoles means nothing – Palace

MANILA, Philippines – The photograph of President Benigno Aquino III with the lavish-living daughter of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles does not mean anything, Malacañang said on Wednesday, September 11.

It was one of those instances in a social gathering where guests wanted to have their pictures taken with the President, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

It doesn’t mean the President knew the Napoleses, she said.

The photograph had gone viral on social media.

"I understand the photo was taken at an event last November in Cebu. She (Jeane Napoles) had her photo taken with the President, as did other people who lined up to have their photo taken with him," Valte said.

Aquino attended the national thanksgiving mass for San Pedro Calungsod on November 30 in Cebu, Palace Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said.

Jeane had become controversial for flaunting on social media her lavish lifestyle just as an exposé about her mother’s role in siphoning off lawmakers’ funds was unfolding in the Philippines.

Napoles surrendered to the President on August 28. She is now detained at a special police training facility in Laguna, prompting criticisms that the administration is giving her special treatment.

She is facing charges of serious illegal detention after kidnapping her former employer who had since turned state witness against her in the pork barrel scam.

Earlier on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the President’s party mate, Senate President Franklin Drilon, from allegations of possible deeper ties to Napoles.

Photographs of Drilon and his wife Mila partying with the Napoleses had circulated as well.

Lacierda said “there’s a difference between the pictures of Senator Drilon and the other senators” partying with Napoles.

The other senators – referring to opposition members Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada – had been tagged in a special audit report as having endorsed Napoles’ dubious NGOs, he said. Drilon wasn’t.

"So there was this report. So that thing, coupled with a picture, people would tend to put two and two together. Insofar as Senator Drilon is concerned, there has been no audit report or there has been no allegation of diversion to any Napoles-NGO. That’s the difference," Lacierda said.

"The fact that you have a picture taken with somebody notorious at best, coupled with no other links other than the picture, is not proof of any wrongdoing. What should… What is damning to others were the allegations of an audit," he added. –