MANILA, Philippines – Janet Lim Napoles has implicated 3 opposition senators in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday, May 29.
"Ang mga nabanggit niya ay prominent personalities sa nakaraang administrasyon – sina Abad, parang kasama rin si Senator Trillanes, Senator De Lima, at Senate [Minority Leader] Drilon," Aguirre said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.
(The ones Napoles mentioned are prominent personalities from the previous administration – former budget secretary Butch Abad, and also Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator Leila de Lima, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.)
Aguirre said Napoles' lawyer Stephen David had told him they will file a complaint against Abad and the 3 senators before the Department of Justice (DOJ) within the next few days.
"'Yun pong kay Janet Napoles ay nakausap ko na po, actually 'yung kanyang lawyer, at sabi niya in a few days magsasampa sila ng kaukulang habla at ifa-file ata nila 'yun sa DOJ," Aguirre said.
(With Janet Napoles, I talked to her lawyer, and he said that in a few days they will file a complaint before the DOJ.)
Drilon and Trillanes, however, slammed the allegation as "black propaganda" meant to persecute critics of President Rodrigo Duterte. Trillanes and De Lima are the fiercest critics of the President while De Lima, Drilon, and Abad are members of the Liberal Party of former president Benigno Aquino III.
"Any allegation that I misused public funds or that I coursed it through Napoles or any bogus non-government organization at any point is a blatant lie," Drilon said in a statement on Monday.
"This is outright black propaganda and political harassment intended to silence the members of the opposition. The intention is obvious from the personalities being linked. If this is not revenge, I don't know what it is," the minority leader also said.
Trillanes, meanwhile, accused Aguirre of conspiring with Napoles to pin down Duterte's critics.
"Aguirre has been using his office to persecute and harass members of the opposition by fabricating testimonies from dubious convicts or detainees such as the Bilibid drug lords, Kerwin Espinosa, and now Napoles," he said.
Trillanes also said he is not among the lawmakers who were on the so-called "Napoles lists" back in 2013. (READ: FACT-CHECK: Making sense of the Napoles lists)
"I categorically deny any involvement in any irregularity regarding PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), or any government funds, for that matter. I was never even mentioned in any of the so-called Napoles lists provided during the height of the investigations in 2013," he said.
De Lima, who has yet to issue a statement, had been linked to the scam as early as August 2016 by no less than Duterte himself.
De Lima has repeatedly denied all the accusations against her, pointing out that she was even the one who sought the imprisonment of Napoles. De Lima, then justice secretary, recommended the filing of plunder and tax evasion charges against the businesswoman.
Aguirre, however, said this is not a case of revenge.
"Ang tingin ko po diyan ay pagpapatupad ng katarungan, sapagkat kapag ikaw po ay nagkasala at alam naman natin na kung ikaw ay namuno sa napakalaking pag-rape sa ating kabang-bayan, wala pong, walang dapat ipaghiganti ang ating Pangulo, dahil nanalo naman po siya, napakalaki ng kanyang panalo," the justice chief said.
(I see that as the administration of justice, because if you committed a crime and you plundered our nation's coffers, there is no need for the President to seek revenge. And besides, he won by a big margin in the elections.)
"Ang participation ay hindi lang sa direct [na] ikaw gumawa, meron diyan instigation, parte ng conspiracy," Aguirre added.
(Participation is not just you directly doing it, there's also instigation, or being part of the conspiracy.)
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Napoles is free to file any complaint, but noted that it is her office which would have jurisdiction over complaints against Drilon, Trillanes, and De Lima.
"Since these officials are high-profile officials, if they (the DOJ) will have to conclude their findings, their findings will go to us and we will pass upon them," Morales said.
Aguirre told Rappler that he acknowledges any results of their probe would need to be turned over to the Ombudsman.
Morales earlier said Abad is already being investigated by her office in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Morales also said Aguirre is free to hold talks with Napoles, but maintains all charges against Napoles before the Sandiganbayan remain unchanged.
"Probably she has forged an agreement with them that she is going to come up with an affidavit. Nothing can prevent the DOJ from talking to the principal suspect because they believe she has a bombshell," the Ombudsman said.
Napoles as complainant, witness?
Aguirre and David have not responded as of posting time to Rappler's question on whether Napoles will be treated by the DOJ as a complainant. (READ: TIMELINE: Pork barrel scam 'queen' Napoles in detention)
She is currently one of the principal suspects in the scam, facing 5 plunder cases before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. (READ: Where do PH judicial bodies stand in the Napoles case?)
Aguirre had expressed intentions to turn Napoles into a state witness, a plan immediately shot down by Morales who has the authority to recommend personalities as state witnesses before the Sandiganbayan.
Aguirre then said he will study the option of admitting Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP). (READ: FACT CHECK: What can Aguirre's DOJ do in the Napoles case?)
Earlier this month, Napoles was acquitted in the serious illegal detention case filed by whistle-blower Benhur Luy, after the Court of Appeals (CA) overturned the 2015 conviction of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org