Tuesday, August 13, 2013

DOJ to file charges against legislators in pork barrel scam - Inquirer.net

By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is to file cases "in a few weeks" against lawmakers involved in the alleged misuse of public funds, but the investigation is not about to end anytime soon because of the massive scale of alleged schemes to divert legislators' pork barrel and other funds, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima said lawmakers were among those being investigated by the DOJ  and the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with the funneling of public funds to bogus non-government organizations for fictitious projects. Some of the bogus NGOs were allegedly run by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who has denied involvement in such a scheme.

"The NBI has been validating, double-checking the accuracy of the list and we will file charges in the next few weeks where there is sufficient evidence," De Lima told reporters at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

De Lima said the cases would most probably be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, which is conducting a parallel probe.

But De Lima said the magnitude of the alleged scheme was such the probe would not end even if cases would be filed.

"In other words, this investigation would go on for a long time because of the massive scope of the alleged scam or the magnitude of the alleged scam," she said.

There is also a "bigger and enhanced" team involved in the investigation into the scheme. De Lima noted that Napoles' camp earlier indicated that it did not want the probe to be handled by the same team involved in the rescue of Benhur Luy, who had disclosed the alleged scheme of Napoles, his erstwhile employer.

She said investigators and lawyers from other NBI divisions, such as the anti-fraud unit and the legal office, had been assigned to the investigation.

De Lima  denied that the investigation was zeroing in on members of the opposition.

"There is no such standard of segregating or separating the opposition from the administration. We don't care. In the ongoing probe, it's never a criterion," she said. "Maybe later when we start filing charges, you would know or see that it's not at all a benchmark, and the political color of the subject of the investigation does not matter."

With regard to the 97 mayors the DOJ had summoned, De Lima said investigators just want to hear from them whether or not they had anything to do with the request for financial assistance sourced from the Malampaya gas fund.

The NBI's whistleblowers had told investigators that the requests from mayors were fabricated and that P900 million that was intended to help towns ravaged by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng  went to Napoles or non-governmental organizations identified with her.

"What the mayors would say could be corroborative evidence," De Lima said.

She noted that a few of the mayors earlier already told the Commission on Audit and the NBI that they had not made any such requests.

Meanwhile, De Lima said she was leaving it up to the House to decide when to hold its own investigation into the alleged scam.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte earlier said he would rather that the authorities complete their probe first before the legislators look into the issue.

Belmonte said he would make sure the House would fully cooperate with the NBI in the investigation and would make any document available to investigators.

But as to getting lawmakers to attend the investigation, he said, this would be up to the individual concerned.

Related stories:

De Lima invites 97 mayors to shed light on P900M fund scam

P200M agri fund traced to Napoles group

28 solons linked to scam

Malampaya fund lost P900M in JLN racket

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Tags: Congress , Crime , DoJ , Janet Lim Napoles , Justice , law , Leila de Lima , pork barrel scam , Senate

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