MANILA, Philippines – The senator who allegedly got the biggest kickback in the pork barrel scam has a message for Malacañang: “Ikulong na nila ako. Ngayon na.” (Send me to jail. Now.)
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr warned against the Aquino administration’s supposed plan to expedite his arrest after he called for the release of the controversial list of lawmakers whom alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles implicated in the scheme.
Revilla said he got information from a “reliable source” that the Palace wanted to send the 3 opposition senators to jail as soon as possible to divert public attention from the list.
Refusing to name the source, the actor-turned-politician was even defiant.
“Ikulong na nila ako. Ngayon na. Hinahamon ko sila, ngayon na. Dahil pagod na [ako]. Masyadong mahaba na ang sakripisyo ng pamilya ko. Kahit anong gawin namin, kahit anong sabihin namin na hindi kami guilty sa aspeto na ito, wala, na-judge ka na ng tao dahil ito ang gusto nilang ipalabas,” Revilla said in an interview over radio DWIZ on Wednesday, May 7.
(They should send me to jail. Now. I challenge them, do it now. Because I am so tired. My family has sacrificed for so long. Whatever we do, however we say that we are not guilty in this aspect, people already judged us because this is what [the administration] want to appear.)
Sought for a comment, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr indicated that Malacañang wasn't trying to intervene in the process of arrest, if any.
"We respect the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and will await its resolution on the pending matter," Coloma said.
Revilla faces plunder charges for allegedly getting kickbacks worth P242 million from Napoles. Revilla and senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile are accused of conniving with Napoles to funnel development funds for the poor to her bogus non-governmental organizations and pocketing 50% of the cost of the ghost projects.
The Ombudsman found basis to charge the 3 for plunder, and is set to decide on their appeal. Under the plunder law, the filing of a court case will automatically suspend the 3 senators.
Revilla said Malacañang is out to seek their immediate arrest to “cover up” its refusal to release the Napoles list, which reportedly include the names of more than 100 lawmakers, government officials, and other individuals.
“Hino-hostage nila ang Kongreso. Hino-hostage nila ang Senado, at para kung anuman ang gusto nilang ipasunod, susunod lahat. Eh ano pa, papaano ang hustisya natin dito? Ano pa'ng magagawang trabahong matino dito ng Kongreso,” Revilla said.
(They are holding Congress hostage. They are holding the Senate hostage, so that whatever they want, [the chambers] will follow their orders. What happens to justice here? What decent work will Congress be able to do?)
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima stood firm on her decision not to release the Napoles list, pending what she called vetting and verification. She promised the public that she will not “sanitize” the list following reports that top administration allies were implicated.
Former Senator Panfilo Lacson, who has claimed that Napoles' family also furnished him a copy of the list, said he would speak once De Lima released a doctored version.
‘Nothing to fear in Napoles list’
Reiterating his call for the release of the list, Revilla even issued a challenge to President Benigno Aquino III.
“I challenge the President na magpakatotoo kayo. Kung talagang gusto ninyong magkaroon ng pagbabago, ilabas ninyo ang listahan kung totoo o hindi!” (I challenge the President to be true to yourself. If you really want change, then release the list whether it’s true or not!)
The Palace has clarified that Aquino did not order De Lima to withhold the list.
Even administration allies renewed their call for De Lima, Lacson, and whistleblower Sandra Cam to release the Napoles list after claiming they have copies.
Senator Francis Escudero said he remains perplexed why they are keeping the list secret, even if there are reports he was part of it.
“There is no law stopping them from releasing it. Whoever Napoles mentions, I don’t know why they are afraid. The truth is the truth and Napoles cannot change that. She already lied once here [in the Senate] and to the public. Why will the people on that list be afraid? Whoever is on the list should answer, explain, and defend themselves,” Escudero said.
Escudero and Senator Grace Poe also weighed in on observers’ suggestion for Napoles to release the list but in an executive session with lawmakers.
“Maybe we can consider having an executive session so she will be at ease,” Poe said. “But it does not mean we will cover up any wrongdoing. That will also come out because we can also call her to a hearing and ask the same questions we asked in an executive session.”
Escudero said Napoles and De Lima cannot invoke national security as grounds to hold an executive session.
“Sino ba si Napoles para pabagsakin ang gobyerno? Babagsak ba ang gobyerno o magkakagulo ba ang bansa dahil lang sa kanya? Minsan na niyang pinagnakawan ang bansa at kaban ng bayan, pati ba ito gagawin pa niya sa bansa? Siguro 'di na tayo papayag lahat,” Escudero said.
(Who is Napoles to cause the fall of the government? Will the government collapse or will there be chaos just because of her? She already stole from public coffers once, will she also do this to the nation? Perhaps we all will not allow that to happen). – Rappler.com