MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang questioned the credibility of the list implicating 3 Cabinet secretaries of alleged involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam, and dismissed it as a "mere scrap of paper."
On Wednesday, May 14, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda showed little concern for the list submitted by rehabilitation czar and former Senator Panfilo Lacson to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
The list was supposedly provided to him by family members of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. It contains names of lawmakers and government officials she allegedly transacted with in what has become known as the biggest corruption scandal in the Philippines' recent history.
"The list is there [but] what does it prove? And given the affidavit, which is unsigned, how do we proceed with that? In law, an unsigned affidavit, it’s a mere scrap of paper," he said.
On the list are President Benigno Aquino III's allies – Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) head Joel Villanueva.
Lacierda emphasized that there are "several versions of the list" that are being floated around, none of them signed.
"How does one answer allegations in an affidavit which is unsigned, which has not been sworn to?" he asked.
"We have seen in the criminal process, he who alleges must prove the same. Who is proving what? Mrs Napoles has not yet signed whatever affidavit there was."
He urged the public to hold off judgment and to wait for the signed affidavit before jumping to conclusions.
"We make no judgment on Secretary Lacson. He has a copy of the list but all I’m saying, at the end of the day, the DOJ (Department of Justice) will have to evaluate whichever affidavit is going to be signed by Mrs Napoles and whichever list is going to be submitted by Mrs Napoles," he said.
In a message to Lacierda shared with the media, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department is still "waiting [for] the completion of the more extended affidavit which expectedly covers the entire list."
"It's not DOJ [or the] NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) which is preparing it but Napoles herself, as assisted by her counsels. The President's instruction is for DOJ or NBI to vet or evaluate her allegations and, as always, to proceed where the evidence would lead us," De Lima said.
Napoles – who faces plunder charges for alleged connivance with executive and legislative officials to siphon off pork barrel funds to her fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks – had earlier approached Lacson with a list of names but later on asked to see De Lima in person for a "tell all." (READ: Napoles wants to be state witness – De Lima)
De Lima has yet to release her version of the list, but has been subpoenaed by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to do so amid fears the administration would sanitize the list and protect its allies.
Lacierda decried the accusation.
He again reiterated Aquino's line of following the evidence wherever it may lead, "friend or foe," but said to claim Malacañang is covering up for its allies is not fair.
"Any allegations that we're favoring our own allies is unfair," he said.
Lacierda gave an assurance that the administration would probe the names, once a signed affidavit is released.
"We are going to do that. Once we have a copy of the affidavit, the DOJ will investigate and evaluate. That’s the entire purpose of the investigation proper," he said.
"We will file...a complaint to the Sandiganbayan where the evidence warrants."
The President himself has admitted to having seen two lists, which he said, do not match. At the time, he said he had yet to see a third list.
Another list from pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy was reported on by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It also had differences in the names it provided in comparison to the list already released.
When the list of Lacson was first revealed on Tuesday, the Palace said the Cabinet secretaries still "enjoy the President's trust" and that "a mere allegation concerning actions taken in a previous position does not affect the presumption of regularity in connection with the performance of current duties."