MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Panfilo Lacson said even “noisy” lawmakers criticizing the pork barrel scam got kickbacks from alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The rehabilitation secretary revealed that the Napoles camp first approached him last month to offer to “tell all” about the scam, even before Justice Secretary Leila de Lima met with the detained businesswoman on Monday, April 21.
In an interview with radio dwIZ on Wednesday, Lacson said Napoles’ husband, Jaime, and two of their children he did not name, met with him in his office last month and presented a draft affidavit and a narration of the scam.
Lacson said Napoles’ camp decided to approach him through a common friend to try to ask President Benigno Aquino III and the Ombudsman to grant immunity to Napoles.
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From the information he got, Lacson denied reports that Napoles identified as many as 19 senators as having received kickbacks. (Bruce Rivera, the lawyer of Napoles, had denied the same report.)
He said some of the names “validated” his suspicions but others surprised him. The names filled one to two pages.
“’May idea na ako. ‘Yung iba maingay, ‘yung iba hindi masyadong maingay. ‘Yung iba tahimik pero may idea na ako na may kinalaman sila sa pork,” Lacson said. (I already had an idea who they are. The others are noisy, the rest are not so noisy. The others are quiet, but I had an idea about their involvement in pork.)
On reports that 19 senators are involved in the pork scam, based on the affidavit of Napoles, he quipped: “Parang walang 19 pero may quorum. Maraming pangalan doon, hindi lang sa Senate, pati sa House,” (Not as many as 19, it seems, but there’s a quorum. There are names there from the Senate, even the House.)
There are 24 senators, and a quorum consists of at least 13 of them.
Lacson added that Napoles included an official from the Department of Budget and Management.
He said the Napoleses chose him because he has no involvement in the scam. As a senator, Lacson refused to accept his pork barrel allocation and called for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Lacson did not name the lawmakers Napoles mentioned but dropped hints about their identities.
Asked if they included those who strongly criticized the scam but may be embarrassed in the end for having dealings with Napoles, he said, “Posible yun!” (That’s possible!)
After De Lima announced that Napoles is offering to turn state witness, reports and speculation have been rife about the identities of the other lawmakers Napoles said she had transacted with.
Bigger amount, not just PDAF
Lacson confirmed that Napoles mentioned more names not previously brought up in the scam. “There were names that have not been mentioned, even in the hearings.”
He said it “seems” there is a lawmaker who earned more from the scam than Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile who now face plunder charges.
“Wala pa ‘yung kumpletong dokumento. Masasabi ko lamang doon sa tatlo, malaki pero mukhang may mas malaki na hindi nababanggit.” (The complete documents are not yet there. What I can say about the 3 is that they got a big amount but it seems there is another who got more but has not yet been mentioned.)
Lacson confirmed that Napoles did not just deal with the PDAF but also tapped into other types of government funds. He supported the statement of whistleblowers that lawmakers’ kickbacks reached as high as 50% of the project cost.
“There were savings awarded, allocated, and there was also a kickback of not just the P200 million (US$4.5 million) but an additional P1 million (US$22,400) that did not come from pork. There was also a department where the appropriations for senators and congressmen were allocated for foundations of Mrs Napoles and they got kickbacks from that.”
‘Napoles telling only 20%’
Besides the draft affidavit and narration, Lacson said the Napoleses gave him copies of Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) numbers, dates, and even a USB with an audio recording of a “revealing” telephone conversation.
“[From the documents,] you will see the sequence, there are dates, SARO numbers, narration and how they gave the kickback, and how they coordinated and the process,” Lacson said.
Yet he said he advised them that Napoles’ initial statement was not convincing because it was inadequate. He said he refused to bring the matter up with President Aquino and the Ombudsman for this reason.
“Sa level ko pa lamang, hindi naman ako lawyer o Ombudsman, mukhang 20% pa ‘yung narration ninyo at affidavit. Mukhang hindi papasa. Baka hindi uubra. Kung gusto ninyo matulungan talaga, mabigyan ng immunity, mukhang sa akin pa lamang hindi na uubra.”
(In my level alone, I’m not a lawyer or the Ombudsman, but it seems the narration and affidavit are just 20%. It looks like it will not pass my standards. If you want to be helped, to be given immunity, it seems even at my level this will not pass.)
Lacson said Napoles’ husband responded that there are still many things Napoles is trying to recall, and they have yet to go over all the documents for her to remember the details.
The former senator echoed De Lima’s statement that Napoles wanted to “tell all” before undergoing a surgery, and amid security threats.
The secretary overseeing rehabilitation efforts following Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) said that Napoles’ narration should teach public officials a lesson.
“It’s about time. Our taxpayers have been fooled for a long time, and there is a day of reckoning. In the job I face, a storm surge might happen, a tsunami that can hit anyone. So it’s better for them not to steal from public coffers so they are sure that they have no worries in times of disaster.” – Rappler.com