Senators dismayed at postponement of Malampaya fund hearing

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SENATORS Alan Peter Cayetano and Jinggoy Estrada expressed dismay on the deferment of the Malampaya fund probe.

In Wednesday's session, Cayetano questioned the motive of Senate Blue Ribbon chair Teofisto Guingona III after the latter announced the postponement of the Malampaya fund scam hearing originally set for Thursday.

Guingona who is out of the country for an official mission earlier claimed that the resource persons for the hearing like Commission on audit Chairman Ma. Grace Pulido Tan would not be able to attend.

Senate Blue Ribbon vice Chairman Senator Sergio Osmena III, for his part, said that the said postponement was due to the fact that it will coincide with the World Economic Forum on East Asia meetings.

Estrada stood up in the session hall to support the call of Cayetano, insisting the need for the Malampaya probe to start at the soonest time.

Both Cayetano and Estrada were pushing for the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Napoles to testify.

Cayetano said Napoles should speak and validate her claims about those legislators who were involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam while Estrada said this is the time for whistleblower Ruby Tuason to speak the truth on this matter.

"Hindi pwedeng ganoon. Kung sila ang masusunod, postpone ito ng postpone. Dapat, mag-set ang Senado then i-require sila na nandito sila," Cayetano said.

The Senate Majority Leader expressed belief that there is this unseen force protecting Napoles.

"I still believe a hundred percent na may pumoprotektang makapangyarihan kay Ms. Napoles. Klarong klaro 'yun. Hindi naman makakapunta sa Palasyo 'yun nang siya lang. Hindi naman makakastay sa kampo 'yun instead of the regular jail, hindi naman makakapagtagal sa OsMak yun, at hindi naman niya mauutusan ang dalawang secretary na ikalat ang files niya nang wala siyang impluwensya. May mga taong nasa likod nito," Cayetano told reporters.

Cayetano, in filing Senate Resolution 655, was prompted by news reports quoting alleged information by pork barrel scam key whistleblower Benhur Luy that the fertilizer fund scam was allegedly designed by Napoles and that it is the precursor of the pork barrel scam.

In his resolution, Cayetano also noted that Napoles' alleged initial company, Jo-Chris Trading supplied overpriced fertilizers to foundations the latter set up such as the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc., and the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc.

Napoles was in fact previously summoned to appear before the Blue Ribbon committee, when the fertilizer fund scam was re-investigated in 2008, but managed to elude the Senate's subpoenas.

Meanwhile, Luy sent a letter to the Blue Ribbon committee explaining why he cannot submit the original copy of his digital files to the panel.

To recall, senators urged Luy and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to submit the digital files of Luy that contain records of Janet Lim-Napoles' alleged transaction with politicians.

Osmena, on the other hand, noted the possible involvement of more names once the committee reopens the PDAF scam probe especially when Luy's "hard drive" or information contained in it is already in the hands of the Blue Ribbon committee.

Guingona issued a subpoena duces tecum (subpoena for production of evidence) last May 15, for the soft copy of the digital records of Luy relating or relevant to the PDAF scam.

"Remember the hard disk drive, it's (supposed to cover the period) since 2001, that’s a lot of information...The most meaty part would be the hard disk of Benhur," Osmena said.

In a formal letter submitted to the committee Wednesday, Luy's counsel, Raymond Joseph Ian Mendoza, said that his client submitted all copies to the National Bureau of Investigation's Cybercrime Division.

"Inasmuch as our client wishes to submit to your committee the requested soft copy of digital records relating or relevant to PDAF scam, we deemed it more prudent to refer your directive to the Cybercrime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)," Mendoza told the committee in a May 20 letter.

Mendoza said Luy's files were undergoing forensic examination and authentication by the NBI.

"Please be informed that earlier, our client personally submitted to the said Division, the hard drive containing digital records and information in relation to PDAF transaction of Janet Lim-Napoles for forensic examination and authentication to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of its contents," Mendoza said.

In the same letter, Mendoza asked the Blue Ribbon committee to direct the subpoena duces tecum to the NBI Cybercrime Division while at the same time, the lawyer formally asked NBI Director Virgilio Mendez to furnish the Senate panel a copy of the digital files submitted by Luy.

"In view thereof and in compliance with the above–mentioned subpoena duces tecum, it is respectfully requested that this Honorable Office produced the said hard drive or a copy of its digital contents before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on or before May 21, 2014," said the letter of Atty. Mendoza addressed to the NBI. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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