No foes, no allies in pork barrel scam probe - De Lima, Carpio-Morales
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MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 11:11 a.m.) Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales vowed on Tuesday that there would be "no such thing as administration allies or otherwise" in the investigation by the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council into the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel.
At a press conference a day after the #MillionPeopleMarch to demand the scrapping of the pork barrel system, the two officials said the investigation into the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam would "go where the evidence takes us."
The National Bureau of Investigation, which is under the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Ombudsman are conducting parallel fact-finding investigations into how several lawmakers supposedly handed over billions of pesos of their pork barrel to non-existent projects proposed by bogus nongovernment organizations allegedly set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
De Lima said the NBI is expected to submit its report in one to two weeks and that "some lawmakers" are likely to be among those recommended for charges.
“We want to know if the persons who are allegedly incorporators of the incorporations are real persons or fictitious. Ang magiging basehan sa pagsasampa sa first batch of cases in one to two weeks ay personal knowledge ng aming whistleblowers o witnesses (The basis for filing the first batch of cases in one to two weeks will be the personal knowledge of our whistleblowers or witnesses). Cases to be filed by NBI will include lawmakers as respondents,” she said.
Napoles went into hiding about two weeks ago after a trial court issued a warrant for her arrest over serious illegal detention charges filed against her by a former associate who blew the whistle on the alleged scam.
De Lima and Carpio-Morales, who chairs the inter-agency body, said the recently publicized report of the Commission on Audit on the massive misuse of the pork barrel from 2007-2009 could not be used as evidence in the current investigation.
“We are not bound by the COA report … The COA report is not evidence. We can't file a case based on the COA report alone,” Morales said.
“Ang COA report itself is not evidence, but it is a major reference document in the probe,” De Lima agreed.
They did say, however, that the report on what COA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan described as "disgusting" abuse of the PDAF would make a valuable reference to find and gather more documentary evidence, including from other govrernment agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We have written letter requests to different agencies (such as) the Securities and Exchange Commission (for us to identify those) allegedly involved in the scam. Fortunately, SEC has responded and it has complied with the request,” Morales said.
Morales said they also requested Anti-Money Laundering Council for documents but the agency has yet to reply.
She said documents will be also requested from the Department of Budget and Management.
“Let us be patient. We will still have to conduct preliminary investigation,” she said.
Morales also dismissed allegations her office has been remiss or selective in investigating the scam.
“It is not true that it is only now that the Ombudsman is looking at the pork barrel scam case. We assure you of the credibility of the investigation. There is no ‘ka-alyado or hindi ka-alyado ng administrasyon’ (allies or non-allies of the administration). We don’t have any record of being tools of anybody ... We assure you of credibility of the investigation, she said.
De Lima and Morales both pointed out that investigations into the alleged misuse of the PDAF have been going on for the past two years.
The Justice secretary also reiterated assurances that Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim, who is also a fugitive, are still in the country.
“Walang report na nakalabas na ng bansa si Janet Lim-Napoles (We have no reports that Janet Lim-Napoles has left the country)," she said.