Palace rejects lifestyle check, opening of bank accounts of ‘pork scammers’

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

MALACANANG said Thursday that the government has to respect the laws in relation to lifestyle checks and opening of bank accounts of those officials allegedly involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, said that the Aquino administration has always been advocating openness, transparency, and accountability of public officials.

He cited the public disclosure of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of President Benigno Aquino III and of his Cabinet officials.

"We note the call for a lifestyle check of public officials, as well as the call for the opening of bank deposits. There are, however, requirements under existing laws, such as the Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act 3019) and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Government Officials and Employees (Republic Act 6713) before such check can be lawfully conducted," Coloma said.

This is in line with the Constitution's guarantee to due process of law, the official said.

There were calls from some groups to conduct lifestyle check and opening of bank accounts of those who were dragged into the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Organizers of June 12 rally were also reportedly demanding for the resignation of all incumbent officials who were allegedly involved in the fund mess.

But Coloma reiterated that the government would not just rely on accusations without presenting any evidence.

"There is a need to recognize the right to 'presumption of innocence', especially while no concrete proof of wrongdoing has been presented against them," he said.

"As the President has always emphasized, let the evidence point to the direction of the inquiry and let justice be carried out without fear or favor," he added.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Secretary Joel Villanueva have been included in the affidavit of alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles of those involved in the scam.

The Communication Secretary also reiterated that with the proliferation of lists and scenarios surrounding the testimony of Napoles, it is likely that "certain quarters" are muddling the issue.

"They may be carrying out a strategy of 'burn the house down' by implicating as many political personalities as possible, thereby misdirecting the inquiry and dissipating efforts to make those involved accountable before the bar of justice," he said. (SDR/Sunnex)

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