De Lima: 2nd batch of pork case to be filed on Friday
MANILA, Philippines – After several postponements, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to file its second batch of cases related to the pork barrel scam on Friday, November 29.
The second batch was originally intended to immediately follow the first batch of cases filed with the Office of the Ombudsman in September, but has been continuously postponed because of missing documents. The DOJ has repeatedly said it wants its cases to be air-tight.
The case was finally scheduled for filing on Wednesday but a Cabinet meeting on rehabilitation efforts post-Yolanda forced a postponement to Thursday. De Lima also had to attend the Cabinet meeting.
But the Justice Secretary on Thursday said that even if it can technically be filed by the day's end, she has "no time to take a final look at final versions of the documents prepared by the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation]."
The NBI, which is under the authority of the DOJ, led the investigation of the scam.
De Lima said the agency will aim to file the case between 11:00-11:30 Friday morning, but said she is unsure if she can personally go and attend the filing because of another Cabinet meeting at the Palace at 2 pm.
Levi Baligod, the lawyer of the scam's whistleblowers, also told Rappler in a text message the postponement to Friday was because they are "still obtaining the names of the auditors involved [in the scam] from the [Commission on Audit]."
The cases are in relation to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam wherein alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles supposedly connived with lawmakers to channel their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks. The scam exposed widespread corruption across several government agencies.
Aside from Napoles, 37 others have been charged in relation to the scam, including senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, their staff, and some congressmen.
Estrada has cried political persecution and complained of the DOJ's "selective" filing of cases, citing the delay in the second batch of cases. He blasted De Lima for the postponement, suggesting that the government was singling out opposition lawmakers in the first batch.
The NBI, according to De Lima, wants a freeze order on the assets of "all" respondents in the pork barrel scam because the NBI believes the scam would not have worked without all of them conspiring with each other.
"The position of the NBI is that there is a conspiracy and therefore everyone is culpable even if they have varying levels of participation or roles in the scheme. We treat them all as co-conspirators because the act of one is the act of all," she said.
She did however maintain the NBI's position that the "brains of the PDAF scam is Mrs. Napoles." She said they are very careful about commenting on Enrile accused of being the brains behind the pork barrel scam.
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier named him as the mastermind. “Si Enrile! His paternity is unquestioned, his DNA confirmed,” Santiago said.
De Lima conceded that the lawmakers, including the 3 senators who have been charged before the Office of the Ombudsman, benefitted from the scheme.
Napoles is currently being detained in Laguna for a separate serious illegal detention case for the kidnapping of her personal assistant turned whistleblower, Benhur Luy. She insists she has nothing to do with the pork barrel scam. – Rappler.com