MANILA–The Department of Justice is set to create a panel of prosecutors who will handle the reinvestigation on the planned review of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cases.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II explained this is part of the ongoing review of the PDAF scam on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte which seeks to find out who else should be held accountable over such anomaly.
“We are going to constitute another task force…pwedeng NBI-DOJ, pwedeng within the DOJ family, but masyadong maaga pa, but definitely we are going to investigate,” Aguirre said in a recently press conference .
Aguirre recalled that when the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles surrendered in August 2013, she was reportedly accompanied by then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crime.
But he clarified that he was not implying the guilt of those who accompanied Napoles.
“What I’m just trying to say is that why did this person go straight to Malacañang, to the highest officials of the land, including Cabinet secretaries. You can say that high-ranking people are involved here,” he told reporters during the weekly Kapihan Sa Manila Bay on Wednesday.
Aguirre also asked why only three former senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada – were indicted before the Sandiganbayan when Napoles implicated about a dozen incumbent and former senators and over a hundred congressmen in the list she submitted to then Justice Secretary and now detained Senator Leila de Lima.
He believes the investigation conducted by the previous administration on the pork barrel controversy was “selective” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
“If you will recall during the time of Sec. De Lima, she said more than three times that they are going to come out with additional respondents, but it did not happen. During the Aquino administration, there were only three senators indicted so there was selective justice,” he alleged.
“There were a number of people who were accused of PDAF misuse, but only three were charged. There should be more people charged back then. There really was a miscarriage of justices,” the DOJ chief further lamented.
He also revealed that he would meet with Napoles’ lawyers to discuss her submission of a new affidavit on the PDAF scam, adding that he has already discussed the matter with former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, an anti-pork barrel advocate who petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the PDAF during the previous administration.
After meeting with Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David on Thursday, the DOJ Secretary said he immediately instructed the NBI to check the possible detention facility in its headquarters in Manila for Napoles.
Aguirre said he supports the transfer of Napoles to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detention cell from the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW).
“I’m talking to NBI officials of the possibility if Napoles could still be accommodated in the NBI, in view of the continued threats against her,” he told a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Aguirre agreed with the position of Napoles’ camp that she should no longer stay at the CIW following her recent acquittal in a serious illegal detention case by the Court of Appeals (CA).
“Now that she’s no longer a convict, she should no longer stay in a Bureau of Corrections facility. The facility for her should be for detention prisoners only,” he explained.
Aguirre further bared that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has already filed a manifestation before the Sandiganbayan where Napoles is facing non-bailable plunder and graft cases over the pork barrel scam, seeking clarification on her detention in the CIW.
Recently, the CA’s 12th Division reversed the decision of a Makati City court which convicted her and her brother in a serious illegal detention case.
For his part, David, who also represented Napoles in her pork barrel scam cases at the Sandiganbayan, had filed a motion before the Sandiganbayan, where Napoles is facing plunder and graft cases, seeking her transfer from the Correctional Institute of Women (CIW) to the National Bureau of Investigation or the Philippine National Police custodial center following her acquittal in the serious illegal detention case by the Court of Appeals.
David recalled that the possibility of Napoles becoming state witness was already raised before the Office of the Ombudsman during the previous administration, but it was only after her acquittal in the serious illegal detention case when it is now being pursued by the government.
David disclosed that Napoles is willing to cooperate with the reinvestigation of the DOJ on the multi-billion-peso anomaly.
“Of course, there will be more officials (to be named),” he told reporters in the DOJ after a closed-door meeting with the DOJ Secretary.
The lawyer hinted that the list would also include an official in the previous administration who was “higher than lawmakers.”
“If she (Napoles) will become state witness, she should tell everything she knows… Whoever is involved should really be exposed,” he stressed.
“Whatever the truth is, it should come out. Because the truth will set you free,” he added.
The lawyer admitted he does not know how much Napoles would reveal or who were the government officials involved in the PDAF scam.
“Hind ko masasagot yan kasi siya lang ang nakakaalam niyan (I can’t answer that because she alone knows about the scam),” he said.
The lawyer believes Napoles, who faces multiple charges of plunder, graft, and direct bribery at the Sandiganbayan, passes the requirement in becoming state witness being s the least guilty in the scam.
“The case of plunder is crime committed by a public officer,” he explained.
“Nagkataon na nasasama ang private individuals kung may conspiracy, kung tumutulong sila sa pagpapayaman ng public official (Private individuals just get dragged in a plunder case because they help the public official get rich,” David said.
Aguirre further pointed out that in cases of plunder or corruption involving a government official and a private individual, the former is considered the most guilty per ruling of the SC.
“Based on a Supreme Court decision, it will be the government official who will be considered as the most guilty, because he is taking advantage of his public position,” he explained.