MANILA, Philippines – Plunder it is.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said lawmakers involved in the pork barrel scam may face plunder cases after principal whistleblower Benhur Luy detailed the mechanics and extent of the alleged corruption.
Plunder is punishable by life imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.
In a press briefing after the Senate hearing on Thursday, September 12, Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said Luy’s testimony was credible and convincing.
“The most important whistleblower has already testified. There is reasonable basis to conclude there was either malversation of public funds or plunder committed by some legislators,” the senator said.
During the hearing, De Lima said plunder will be one of the charges the government will file against the perpetrators in the first batch of cases on Monday.
“The public was outraged, rightly so, with the story of plunder,” De Lima said in her opening statement.
Guingona said Luy’s testimony completed the picture of how pork barrel was transferred from the lawmakers to the Department of Budget and Management to the implementing agencies to the fake non-government organizations and back to the legislators’ pockets.
“We have a full circle already….We established that there is really corruption that happened and the money was given to the legislators. What we don’t know is the name of the legislators but it’s only a matter of time. The Secretary of Justice said it will come out on Monday,” Guingona said.
De Lima allowed Luy to testify on condition that he will not name the lawmakers involved. She said doing so would put the whistleblowers’ security at risk, and may compromise the case to be filed with the Ombudsman.
Luy is the second cousin and former aide of Janet Napoles, who he identified as the mastermind behind the pork barrel scam. He testified that lawmakers and the heads of implementing agencies actively worked with Napoles to transfer their PDAF to her fake NGOs.
Luy said the lawmakers got 50% of the money while 10% went to the implementing agencies and Napoles pocketed the 40% left.
Will Napoles testify?
Guingona said the case filing on Monday will determine the fate of the Senate investigation.
Asked whether the committee will invite Napoles to the probe, Guingona said, “We will sit down and assess after Monday.”
Guingona also could not say if the committee will invite Luy and other whistleblowers to face the Senate again. The committee has said it will only invite whistleblowers who have submitted affidavits to the Justice Department and the National Bureau of Investigation.
As to the senators implicated in the scam, Guingona said the panel has yet to decide on summoning them to the probe.
Thursday’s hearing was the third in the Senate probe. In the hearing, Luy corroborated the testimonies of past witnesses like Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan and the former heads of the implementing agencies about the lawmakers endorsing the fake Napoles NGOs.
While Luy did not name names, past witnesses named Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada and several representatives as those who signed the endorsement letters or asked their staff to do so. The witnesses also said the lawmakers even signed the liquidation reports of the fake NGOs.
With the case about to be filed in court, will the Senate inquiry come to an end?
Guingona said, “We will assess. We will assess. Ah, we will assess.” – Rappler.com