MANILA, Philippines (UDPATED) – Senate President Franklin Drilon is not discounting the possibility that there are more photos of him with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, not just the set shown by a TV network.
He admitted having attended "less than 10" social gatherings either hosted by Napoles and her husband Jaime or where the couple was also present.
These do not mean anything, however, Drilon said in a press conference on Tuesday, September 10. “Alam 'nyo naman kaming mga pulitiko, picture nang picture.” (You know us politicians, we’re fond of photos.)
He stressed that none of his development funds went to non-governmental organizations linked to Napoles.
GMA7 on Monday showed several photos of the Senate chief and his wife Mila with the Napoles couple at a party in Heritage Park in Taguig. The photos were sent to broadcast journalist Arnold Clavio by an anonymous source.
According to an earlier Rappler report, Napoles' mausoleum in Heritage Park, reportedly worth P30 million, is where she hosts gatherings for political and show business VIPs.
Drilon though rejected these as attempts to malign him.
“There is a clear effort to implicate me as guilty by association with the pictures shown last night on TV. Let me make it very clear that none of my PDAF allocation was ever assigned or given to any project of Ms Napoles or her NGOs. You can go through the DBM, COA website with a fine-tooth comb. You will not see a single peso of my PDAF being assigned to a single Napoles NGO.”
Drilon was referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) following the controversy that lawmakers allegedly endorsed Napoles NGOs and other bogus NGOs as the recipients of their pork barrel in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
The Senate President said he and his wife were invited to the dinner because Mrs Drilon is “an active Church worker” and the guests included seminarians from China who were in the Philippines on a study tour. He said other guests were orphans and street children who were beneficiaries of a Church-led feeding program.
Napoles is known to support religious causes that her late mother used to help. A priest who lives in a Forbes Park home owned by Napoles spoke about these seminarians from China.
Photo obtained by Rappler
“Yung host siguro si Napoles. Sino ang kinumbida? Siguro kaming mag-asawa. Si Mrs Drilon bilang active Church worker, that was the consideration I assume.” (I guess Napoles was the host. Who was invited? I guess my wife and I. Mrs Drilon as an active Church worker.)
Asked how he knew Napoles' husband, Drilon said, "I knew him as the husband of Napoles in that gathering."
Drilon said he cannot recall how many times he met Napoles in social gatherings but said this was “certainly less than 10.”
“Yes there can be other pictures because I see her in other gatherings pero kaming mga pulitiko, maraming nagpapa-picture sa amin,” Drilon said. “Kasama sa pamumuhay naming mga pulitiko iyan. ‘Di mo naman pwede sabihing, ‘Ayaw ko kasi di ka maganda.’”
(We politicians, many people want photos taken with us. That’s part of our life. We can’t say, ‘I don’t want to have my picture taken with you because you’re not beautiful.)
He admitted that he should have just revealed having met Napoles when the controversy first hit headlines.
“Maybe that’s a shortcoming that I have, but that doesn’t make me guilty of using her NGOs.”
Before the photos of Drilon and Napoles surfaced, one of those involved in the pork barrel scam investigation, cited whistleblowers' account that Drilon visited Napoles' office at Discovery Suites several times.
When Rappler sought to verify this, a whistleblower said, indeed Napoles "tried to get close to Drilon," inviting him to a party or two, "so we could access his PDAF."
However, their efforts failed, said the whistleblower, a former employee and dummy officer in Napoles NGOs. "Hindi kami nakakuha sa PDAF n'ya (We weren't able to get anything from his PDAF)."
' Photo obtained by Rappler
Besides Drilon, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were also photographed with Napoles. Like the Senate President, they said they only know Napoles after meeting her in social gatherings.
‘I don’t know if she contributed to LP’
Drilon said at the time he met Napoles, he did not know what her business was. He said he cannot even recall who introduced her to him and whether or not she was introduced as a businesswoman.
“I can’t remember. That was a long time ago,” he said. "I only go to Heritage Park at night a few times. I don't usually go there."
Drilon also does not know whether or not Napoles contributed funds to the campaign of his ruling Liberal Party, the party of President Benigno Aquino III. Drilon served as the party’s campaign manager in the May midterm polls.
“I would not know. I’m not in charge of raising funds.”
Drilon said he has an idea who sent his photo to the TV network but refused to give details. He refused to say if the opposition was the source.
“I have information but these are all [speculation]. I don’t want to get into but [the intention is] very clear. This was sent to TV networks last night.”
The Senate President was irked when asked if he is willing to be investigated.
“Investigated for what? Because may picture kami? Ano ang iimbestigahin? I'm willing to face any investigation, obviously. Wala akong 'tinatago. But that kind of a question, you assume that I did something wrong.” (What will be investigated? I am not hiding anything)
Drilon again said his PDAF went to the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and government hospitals, and was used to build schools and buy medicine.
“I'm introduced to hundreds of people in social gatherings.” – Rappler.com