Guingona: Senate won’t end probe until Napoles appears

MANILA, Philippines – "She is the main actor so she has to be brought [here]."

Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, is adamant about bringing to the Senate hearing alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

If not, his committee will not wrap up its investigation into the multi-billion-peso, intricate racket involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen.

"We already saw in this series of hearings, the Commission on Audit (COA), line agencies, whistleblowers, so what's left to complete the story, is the centerpiece, the main actor, Janet Lim-Napoles," he said on Thursday, September 26.

Napoles’ alleged operation involves conniving with lawmakers to endorse with implementing agencies the release of their PDAF to Napoles' fake non-governmental organizations. In exchange, lawmakers are said to have received hefty kickbacks.

Guingona has had a verbal tussle with Senate President Franklin Drilon after the latter refused to sign the subpoena for Napoles, originally for September 26.

Guingona has since written a letter to Drilon, asking him to reconsider issuing a subpoena for Napoles, who is currently detained in Fort Sto Domingo for charges of serious illegal detention. Subpoenas to be issued by committees have to approved and signed by the Senate President.

Drilon has refused to summon Napoles, saying he would defer to the judgment of the Ombudsman, who is currently looking into evidence relating to the plunder, malversation, and bribery charges filed by the justice department against Napoles and 37 others.

Guingona, however, pointed out that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales did not issue any ruling against the Senate summoning Napoles. She only "gave advice" to Drilon that "it would not be advisable at this time" for Napoles to testify before the Senate.

"So there is no prohibition, there is no clash at all," Guingona said.

He added: "This is in defense of the institution because the reason given is there is advice by a third party agency that shouldn't be. A third part agency shouldn't be involved. The supremacy and the independence of the institution is being undermined here and I will not stand on that."

Guingona also said the Senate would "exercise our options," if Drilon continues to refuse the issuance of a subpoena. He said for now, he will wait for Drilon's response to his letter asking his reconsideration.

On Thursday, September 26, the Senate committee conducted its fifth hearing on the scam. Whistleblowers were in attendance, despite Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s initial hesitation to bring them along after a related complaint had been filed with the Ombudsman.

Guingona had hoped Napoles would attend as well to answer the accusations of the whistleblowers, who are all her former employees.

In his closing statement, Guingona thanked the whistleblowers for appearing despite initial hesitation by De Lima, because he said it helped the Senate and the country come closer to the truth. –