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Friday, May 12, 2017

Aguirre hints officials 'higher than senators' involved in PDAF scam

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice will reinvestigate the alleged irregularities attending the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers during the previous administration which could lead to the indictment of officials even “higher than senators,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference, Aguirre said that the DOJ would open a new investigation into the DAP and PDAF, popularly known as congressional pork barrel, and would discard the findings of a probe conducted during the previous administration which the DOJ chief said engaged in “selective justice.”

“We will not be adopting the findings if any nung De Lima-constituted panel,” the justice chief said, referring to his predecessor, former Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

De Lima, a sitting senator, is in detention at Camp Crame over drug-related charges.

No coordination with ombudsman

Aguirre said that in reinvestigating the cases his office would also not coordinate with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III.

“No, we’re not going to coordinate with the Office of the Ombudsman,” Aguirre said, insisting that his office has concurrent jurisdiction over the cases.

The DOJ secretary said that it was highly suspicious that out of the hundreds of public officials named in the cases only three officials- Sens. Ramon Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada- were charged in connection with the anomaly.

“We’ll be making an honest to goodness effort to reopen itong PDAF and even DAP cases. Kaya’t we could not rest in view of the fact that only three among hundreds of responsible public officials dito sa dalawang kasong ito. Kaya’t tuluy-tuloy po tayo. There will be no selective justice katulad nung nakaraan. Out of several hundreds of public officials tatlo lamang ang talagang nakasuhan,” Aguirre said.

As of 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman has filed cases against 39 lawmakers over their alleged involvement in the PDAF scam. 

Aguirre also scoffed at De Lima for making promises at the height of the controversy that other personalities would be charged over the anomalous use of their PDAF.

“Hundreds of people appear to be responsible and tatlo lamang na-filean mo. If I remember right, siguro mga tatlong beses pinangako ni De Lima next week the next batch will be released. Hindi na-release yun,” he said.

The DOJ secretary said that based on his initial conversation with Stephen David, the lawyer of Janet Lim Napoles, whose non-government organizations were used to siphon off billions of PDAF money, it was possible that senior government officials in the previous administration higher than senators could be implicated.

“Napag-usapan naming kanina yan. As a matter of fact kahit hindi niya sabihin sa akin alam ko naman na ganun ang pagkaalam ng marami sa atin e. Yun ang direction natin. Talagang kung sino yung lalabas ng involved yun ang ating ipo-prosecute,” Aguirre answered when asked if some names higher than senators were given by the Napoles lawyer.

Napoles may be transferred to NBI custody

The Justice secretary said that Napoles could execute an affidavit divulging the names of others involved in the scam once she was transferred to a detention facility at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) or the threats to her life ceased.

For the reinvestigation, a new panel of senior prosecutors would be constituted considering the scope of the scandal and the evidence involved, according to Aguirre.

During the previous administration, it was discovered that billions of taxpayers’ money was funneled by several lawmakers to NGO’s linked to Napoles. This led to calls for the removal of the PDAF of lawmakers.

Another scandal that erupted during the previous administration was the use of DAP which was ruled by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional after it was learned that the administration transferred savings in one department to another, usurping the congressional power of the purse.


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