Senators claim black ops in play to muddle pork scam issue

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Friday, April 25, 2014

CALLING it black operations, several senators said Friday that the move to muddle the pork barrel scam issue is being instigated by desperate people in an attempt to save themselves and to twist the truth in their favor.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago accused her archenemy Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile of being the "brains and financier," of an alleged "psywar" destabilization operation.

The senator said that it is obvious that the story is meant to discredit people but failed to refer to any official document.


Santiago said the suspicious story even cited anonymous sources claiming that the most guilty in the pork scam are President Benigno Aquino III's trusted allies in the Liberal Party, namely, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Senate President Franklin Drilon, and the self-described independent senator Francis Escudero.

At various intervals, the story claimed that there is an alleged list of all other high public officials implicated in the pork scam, held by at least four people, none of whom revealed the contents of the list.

Santiago further said that those who claim to have this list, which has not been shown to the media, are: alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Napoles, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, controversial personality identifying herself as a whistleblower, Sandra Cam; and rehab czar former Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Santiago further said that the "tall tale spun by a small opposition newspaper" is the first in a scheduled barrage of stories against the Aquino administration, intended to destabilize Metro Manila, and to divert national attention away from the plunder charges against Enrile and two other senators, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr.

"This is serendipity. Right after I announced yesterday that there will be a massive disinformation operation against the Aquino administration, true enough, an opposition newspaper with small circulation printed creative fiction punctuated by references to anonymous sources and absent any reference to any official documents of the COA or any other source that are listed as evidence in the Rules of Court," she said.

Santiago, a former Regional Trial Court judge, said that under the Rules of Court, only object or real evidence is admissible, meaning objects which are addressed to the sense of the court. The only other admissible evidence, she said, is documentary evidence.

But she explained that documentary evidence is subject to the so-called "best evidence rule," which means that only the original document itself should be presented, unless the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer.

"If any of the accusations against certain individuals are true, the accusation must be supported by an authenticated copy of a public record in the custody of the Commission on Audit or the budget department. The suspicious story does not refer to any such public record," the senator said.

Santiago also invoked the so-called "parol evidence rule," which means that if there is a written document, the evidence is confined only to the written document and no other evidence can be admitted to modify the terms of the written document.

Santiago said further that the suspicious story does not even contain testimonial evidence, because the testimony must come from a person who has been qualified as a witness.

"In the Rules of Court, there is no such thing as an invisible witness. In the rule of journalistic ethics, the court will not allow libel, which is defined as 'reckless disregard of the truth'," Santiago said.

"Therefore we can conclude that this suspicious news story is just a concoction of the fevered brain of Enrile, whom the Ombudsman has resolved to be culpable for the crime of plunder," she said.

Santiago said that Enrile is "clutching at straws," because if the Ombudsman denies his motion for reconsideration, then the Ombudsman will file the case with the Sandiganbayan. Ultimately, if the case is filed, the Sandiganbayan will suspend Enrile from office and hold him in detention, because plunder is non-bailable.

The senator also said that Napoles, who earlier clammed up under Santiago's interrogation during the Senate hearing, is no longer a credible witness.

"Part of Enrile's diversionary tactics is the statement of his allies – Napoles and Lacson – that each one has a list of implicated persons, which will naturally include the names of all the Enrile enemies like myself, and the two Cayetano senators. Remember, he denied us our Christmas bonus out of sheer spite,” Santiago said.

Santiago said that the best public reaction to the story floating around is a sense of humor.

"It's amusing and it may even be creative, but it is a waste of time. To foil the conspirators, let us simply go back to the basic principle that if a crime has been committed, there must be a punishment. Those who are charged with plunder should undergo trial. If convicted, they should go to jail for 30 years. That is the law, and no fairy tale should serve to distract us from this basic point," she said.

For his part, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano pressed Justice Secretary De Lima to immediately make public the affidavit executed by Napoles on the pork barrel scam in order to expose and charge Napoles' clients and clear the innocent.

Cayetano also asked De Lima to also verify if people on the list are in fact guilty and are clients of Napoles, or if their names are simply being dragged into the controversy.

"Ito na ang sinasabi ko nung isang araw na habang hindi nilalabas ang affidavit ni Napoles, maraming mga listahan ang maglalabasan, guguluhin ang issue, at yung mga guilty ang makikinabang. Ito na nga ang nangyayari," Cayetano said. "Kaya ngayon nagagamit pa nila Napoles at yung mga ibang akusado ang kaguluhan para mawala ang atensyon sa mga kaso nila."

Cayetano said that as early as August 2013 he already said that the books of his office are open to the scrutiny of the Commission on Audit (COA) for any irregularity.

"Let me state once again: Not a single centavo of PDAF from my office went to a Napoles or any other fake NGO. Everything went directly to the people," he said.

Cayetano said that before the pork scam issue gets muddled even further, the Filipino people should have a face-to-face with Napoles through the Senate so that she can speak and be cross examined.

"Let us also be wary of black ops and character assassination attempts against the whistleblowers. Evidence is damning, so all that is left is for the guilty to muddle the issue and hope for an ally in the Palace in 2016,” he said.

Senator Francis Escudero, in various radio interviews, ruled out his inclusion in the list even if Napoles herself would name him, saying that he had not had any transaction with the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind or even any of his family members or relatives, including his late father, former Sorsogon Representative Salvador Escudero.

"Whatever comes out in her affidavit, I am confident that I can defend myself since I know the truth. All of the testimonies of whistleblowers, COA (Commission on Audit), have not mentioned my name even once that I entrusted funds to her or her NGO’s account. I am sure that would be hard to overturn on the mere assertion of one person," Escudero said on radio.

Escudero said the best way to prove it is to open the book of the Commission on Audit.

"Dito po natin makikita ang katotohanan at kung sino nga ba talaga ang nagsamantala sa pera ng taumbayan. Hindi po sa bibig lamang ng iilan. Handa po akong humarap kaninuman para sa isyu ito," Escudero said.

Senator Sergio Osmena III, who is the vice chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, said that he could not be included in the list of those allegedly involved in the scam simply because he does not know Napoles.

"I am definite about not being in the list. I don't even know Napoles," he said.

"If there's (really) 19 (names) so that leaves five (of us) but there are senators who have left the Senate who have been implicated also, right? I will not mention names but, we don't know. I hope they release the affidavit. It is hard to say 19, it will breed all types of speculations, the list should be made public to make it fairly clear," he said.

"I guess when she says 19 senators, she's going back a few years. So some of those senators have probably retired from the Senate or are no longer here anyway. That would probably include also a majority of current senators and that's going to be another blow to this institution. As a matter of fact, we won't even have a quorum anymore," Osmena said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier said he is confident that none of his PDAF went to NGOs linked to Napoles.

"I can say that with confidence, none of them went to any questioned NGO (non-government organizations)," Drilon said, referring to the bogus entities earlier uncovered to have been put up by Napoles to stand as beneficiaries of PDAF of some lawmakers.

Senators underscored the need to be cautious in dealing with Napoles this time around considering that she had admitted to have lied before the Senate inquiry when she first appeared last year and denied any dealings with any present or even former senators contrary to the claims of the whistleblowers.

Drilon and Escudero, who are both lawyers, emphasized the need for any supporting documents to back up Napoles' claims.

"The charges, however, must be supported by compelling and undeniable documentary evidence, because under the rules of court and under our rules of evidence, where the subject of the inquiry is the content of the document, the best evidence is the document. No other evidence is better than the document, because documents do not lie," Drilon said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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