DOJ denies coaching pork barrel scam witnesses

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima denied the claim of Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday that pork barrel scam witnesses are only out to pin him down, along with Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.

In a chance interview on Thursday, de Lima challenged Estrada to name his "unimpeachable source" who relayed to him the information that an undersecretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is controlling the testimony of the whistleblowers.

"If he has a source, that source is lying," she said.

Undersecretary Jose Justiniano oversees the build up and filing of charges in relation to the scam, where lawmakers allegedly channeled their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) of Janet Napoles in exchange for multi-million kickbacks from the businesswoman.

"I will never make such an instruction, because, in the first place, we don’t coach our witnesses. We did not recruit these witnesses. They approached us. It's not the other way around," she said, adding Justiniano will not say or do anything without her blessing.

She also stood by the process of vetting state witness applicants Ruby Tuason and Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General on-leave Dennis Cunanan after Estrada questioned their character in his hour-long privilege speech.

"What's the crux of the issue on the PDAF scam? It's the involvement of the lawmakers and senators who received kickbacks for coursing their PDAF to Napoles NGOs. That's how we assess their (Tuason and Cunanan) credibility," de Lima said.

Estrada hit Cunanan's problematic academic record, frequent overseas travels and ownership of a mansion in Quezon City while Tuason is said to be doing her best to save herself from prosecution to the point of making lies about her supposed visit to the senator’s office to deliver hefty cash in a duffle bag.

"At the right time, all these lies will explode on their faces," the senator said.

Cunanan claimed to have transacted with Estrada and Revilla regarding the release of their PDAF to Napoles' NGOs while Tuason said she delivered kickbacks to Estrada and Enrile through his then chief-of-staff Jessica "Gigi" Reyes.

The senators are among the 38 individuals facing plunder and graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman. (Sunnex)

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