‘Resolve list confusion in Senate hearing’

MANILA, Philippines – Is a Senate hearing the best venue to resolve the confusion over the different versions of the Napoles and Luy lists?

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Francis Escudero think so, reiterating their call for a Senate investigation with key players present for a confrontation.

Cayetano wrote Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on Wednesday, May 14, urging him to call for a hearing with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, her husband Jaime Napoles, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson, and principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.

“We no longer have a choice. Let’s give it to the people. Call everyone involved. I myself will waive my right as a senator and allow the witnesses to ask me questions about the so-called Luy list, Napoles list. There’s no other way except confrontation, cross-examination and for the committee to call a hearing,” Cayetano said.

Escudero agreed, “Definitely, I already asked that everyone with a copy of the list be called so we can compare the lists against each other.”

Confusion over the pork barrel scam grew after several parties claimed to have a copy of the list of officials implicated in the biggest corruption scandal in recent history.

Napoles gave a “tell-all” affidavit to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, but her husband also handed an unsigned affidavit to Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson. President Benigno Aquino III, whistleblower Sandra Cam, and some media outlets also claimed to have copies of the Napoles list, but the names and numbers vary. (READ: Napoles camp says theyre's only one list)

On Wednesday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer released the list supposedly from Napoles’ former finance officer Luy, only for his lawyer to later say that the whistleblower had no hand in the report.

Cayetano and Escudero insisted on a Senate investigation on the lists even if reports say that at least 12 incumbent senators were implicated. Dozens of congressmen and other executive officials were also tagged in the scam.

The two senators themselves were named in the Napoles and Luy lists but denied the allegations. They challenged their accusers to confront them with evidence. 

Guingona said he will wait for De Lima to comply with his committee’s order to submit her copy of the list by Thursday, May 15. He said the committee will then hold a meeting to decide its next step.

“That would be a prudent thing to do, to have a caucus of the members to discuss how to proceed. What’s important is we have a transparent, clear process in getting the truth,” Guingona told reporters.

Guingona also responded to questions on his decision to release the unsigned Lacson version of the list. “Would you imagine the backlash if I did not release it?”

He vowed to also release the version from De Lima as soon as he receives it.

‘Give evidence to Ombudsman’

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, also named in the Napoles and Luy lists, disagreed with Guingona’s call. He said the Lacson list should not have been released to the media, and he will ask Guingona about it.

“There’s no probative value. I do not agree with having a media coverage on a hearing based on that list,” Pimentel said.

Instead, the senator said the best step is for evidence to be submitted to the Ombudsman.

“What is a list? It’s a list. It’s not even handwritten. It was printed from a computer. Where did that come from? You do not know,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel has explained that he was included in the lists on the basis of a forged letter to the agriculture department. He filed a criminal complaint against agriculture officials before the Ombudsman over the issue.

Cynthia Villar, another senator named in the reported Luy list, said all the lists were “political persecution” reminiscent of the attacks against her and husband, former Senate President Manny Villar in the 2010 polls. The former senator ran for president in 2010.

She reiterated that the Department of Transportation and Communications, as the implementing agency, should be the one to explain and subjected to audit.

Pulitika na ito eh. Hindi na ito search for truth.” (This is already politics. This is no longer a search for truth.) – Rappler.com