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MANILA, Philippines – Former Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad is still being investigated in the pork barrel scam, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales clarified on Tuesday, May 16.
"I think he is still part of the persons being investigated," Morales said when asked to comment on Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II's allusion to Abad as the "most guilty instigator" of the scam that earned lawmakers and private individuals millions of pesos each in commissions.
In an earlier press conference, as Aguirre justified Napoles' possible qualification for state witness, he said there is a Supreme Court ruling that says if equal liability is found between a private individual and a government official, it's the official who's "most guilty."
"'Di ba may nagsabi diyan na may tutor o may mentor? (Didn't Napoles say she had a tutor or a mentor?)" Aguirre said, referring to Abad whom Napoles described in an earlier affidavit as having taught her how to set up non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to transact with lawmakers using their PDAF.
Abad has not responded to Rappler's requests for comments as of posting time.
This comes as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to start from scratch the investigation into the misuse of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which Aguirre is branding as a "fairer" probe.
"Kasi alam natin sa nakaraan, especially the number of people who were accused of this PDAF, tatlo lang, pero alam natin na marami yan. Talagang nagkaroon dito ng miscarriage of justice, dapat noon pa nakasuhan ang mga yan. There was selective justice," Aguirre said in a press conference on May 10.
(In the past administration, only 3 were accused of this PDAF, but we know there are more. There really was a miscarriage of justice, these people should have been charged before. There was selective justice.)
Morales said they could still file charges against other lawmakers because hey have not yet finished investigating the scam. Morales has said they are on their "penultimate race" to file all PDAF-related charges before 2017 ends.
"I don't know about those alleged perpetrators which were overlooked by the Office of the Ombudsman. Because our office is continuing its investigations against those possible persons who were involved in the PDAF controversy. So…," Morales said.
Who has jurisdiction?
Aguirre said that their reinvestigation will not rely on the earlier findings of the De Lima-led DOJ, which ultimately became the basis of the Ombudsman's own investigation.
He also admitted that whatever they discover in the probe will still have to be "transmitted to the Ombudsman." (READ: FACT CHECK: What can Aguirre's DOJ do in the Napoles case?)
"As I said, we are not bound by any findings over cases over which the Ombudsman has the final authority to determine whether or not there is probable cause," Morales said.
When detained Senator Leila de Lima, who was justice secretary then, investigated the pork barrel scam with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), they still referred it to the Ombudsman who conducted its own probe.
It was the Ombudsman who eventually indicted and filed charges against prominent lawmakers like former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada.
Aguirre is holding "exploratory talks" with Napoles' lawyers, possibly to include more high-ranking officials in the case. Aguirre said Napoles might be able to talk more freely if threats against her are removed and she is guaranteed safety.
Asked whether she's concerned with these exploratory talks, Morales said: "I'm not bothered at all. We are confident of our position. Whatever they say let them say. We are not bothered, we're not concerned at all by whatever they say about whether or not there is a pending agreement or modus vivendi between Napoles and the DOJ."
The possibility of a modus vivendi or a deal being struck between the government and Napoles was raised by lawyer sources of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) when they discovered that Solicitor General Jose Calida had recommended Napoles' acquittal in the serious illegal detention case. – Rappler.com