Senate panel to discuss Napoles' list in emergency caucus

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Friday, May 9, 2014

THE Senate Blue Ribbon committee will hold an emergency caucus on Monday to discuss the possibility of reopening its probe on the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

This was confirmed by Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairperson Senator Teofisto Guingona III who also revealed that probe on the controversial Malampaya Fund scam will also begin anytime this month.

Guingona said it will be a closed-door caucus but the main topic will be focused on the alleged new names of senators and other government officials that transacted with Napoles using their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Guingona who is on official trip in Australia announced the emergency caucus through his Twitter account in response to the call of his colleagues particularly members of the Blue Ribbon committee and even the three senators being charged with plunder: Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.

Both Revilla and Estrada together with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile are being charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing money coming from the PDAF engineered by Napoles.

Earlier, senators said there is no reason why the Blue Ribbon cannot proceed with the reopening of the pork scam investigation insisting that the panel can even compel Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to furnish the Senate a copy of the said Napoles' list.

De Lima earlier explained the need for the DOJ to make the proper validation first before they will reveal the said list that reportedly include new names of past and present senators and other cabinet secretaries.

Revilla challenged Guingona to resign as committee chairman if he will not heed to the call of the senators who are asking for the reopening of the probe.

Revilla noted that Guingona was quick to prejudge him and his colleagues when they were tagged by whistle-blowers in the scam.

Calling it a mere zarswela, Sen. Estrada said De Lima should simply stop tossing the responsibility for the list to the Senate when she had been outspoken about the issue right from the start.

Estrada was fuming mad when pressed for comment by reporters on De Lima's statement that she was leaving it up to the Senate to release the list.

Estrada said there is a possibility that the list would remain hidden from public view if de Lima would insist on letting the Senate decide on the matter.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III, vice chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, reminded Guingona that the committee has the power to subpoena persons and documents.

"We have the power to subpoena. And if we issue a subpoena they would have to present the affidavit," Osmeña said.

He said the senators can put the issue to a vote if Guingona will not make any move to reopen the probe.

Osmeña said he is confident that there would be enough votes to have the probe on the pork barrel scam reopened and to have de Lima submit the affidavit of Napoles.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero who was rumored to be one of those whose name would appear in the Napoles list said he is interested to see the list and he will challenge Napoles to present concrete evidence.

Escudero likened the tactic of Napoles as similar to what former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano did in a house probe of the "Hello Garci" election fraud scandal where Garcillano tagged Escudero as one of his callers.

"So what else is new?" Escudero said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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