Charges of cover-up prompt Drilon to subpoena Napoles

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Saying he was appalled by allegations that his refusal to summon Janet Lim-Napoles was an attempt at a cover-up, Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday announced he had decided to subpoena the alleged brains of the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam to appear at a Senate inquiry.


Napoles’ much-anticipated testimony at the Senate blue ribbon committee is expected to complete the narrative on how she, some lawmakers and certain government officials coursed allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) meant for the rural poor into ghost projects and kickbacks.

Her testimony also could identify other lawmakers and government officials apart from those in the opposition who have already been charged with her in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“As a former justice secretary, I have always believed in the paramount pursuit of justice. I am therefore appalled that there are talks of a cover-up,” Drilon said. “I have never been a part of any cover-up and I will never be.”

In a text message to the Inquirer Wednesday night, Lorna Kapunan, Napoles’ lawyer, said her client would invoke her right against self-incrimination when she testifies.

“She will issue her sworn statement before the Ombudsman which is the appropriate venue,” Kapunan said.

Drilon’s announcement came on the day he had scheduled a caucus to get a feel of the chamber on his refusal to subpoena Napoles, to the chagrin of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the chair of the investigative panel.

Napoles’ appearance will probably take place next week, Guingona said.

Drilon, whose photograph with Napoles in her parties has been widely publicized, had blocked demands to summon the businesswoman to its inquiry.

To justify his decision, he sought the opinion of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who advised against it because of the investigation her office was conducting.


Second letter

Faced with unrest in the chamber, Drilon sent a second letter to Morales, who forthwith told him that in fact “the Senate is supreme in its own sphere.” Which was why Drilon scheduled Thursday’s caucus.

The subject, however, was not discussed there because he had by then decided to summon Napoles, a matter he discussed likewise during the day with some of his colleagues.

In his privilege speech, Drilon adverted to a purported vilification campaign against him and the Aquino administration by the opposition, “particularly those who seek to block our anticorruption reforms.”

Senate image injured

He didn’t name names but Sandra Cam, a whistle-blower on “jueteng,” a widespread illegal numbers racket during the Arroyo regime and which continues under the Aquino administration, has been reported as saying that Drilon has close ties to Napoles and that the businesswoman was a major election contributor to the ruling Liberal Party.

“It is unfortunate that my decision to adhere to the advice of Ombudsman Morales—to which I concurred at that time was the more prudent and responsible action to take to ensure an orderly administration of justice—has been misconstrued as an effort to hide the truth,” Drilon said.

“The public criticism that came our way has undoubtedly injured the image of the Senate before a public hungry to see Napoles being grilled in the Senate halls,” he added.

The National Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the Napoles pork barrel scam has resulted in the filing of plunder charges in the Ombudsman against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.

Estrada welcomed Drilon’s move. “We ought to know the truth,” he said in his interpellation of Drilon. “I hope she bares everything, she will tell the truth,” he said, adding “as you said, punish the guilty and acquit those who are innocent.”

Asked to explain his decision to consult Morales, Drilon said: “It was a question of prudence and caution on our part that we sought her advice. And in fact when she said in her second letter, that I defer to the collective judgment of the Senate, we took that to mean that her investigation will not be hampered by any investigation with that statement that she made.”