Tuesday, August 13, 2013

De Lima: Raps vs. lawmakers in pork barrel scam to be filed in a few weeks

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was able to confirm the involvement of several lawmakers in the alleged “pork barrel scam,” and charges are forthcoming, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuesday.

"We were able to confirm the involvement of some lawmakers—members of the Senate and the House—but we don't know yet whether the list that we have now is complete, so we are verifying it,” De Lima said in a chance interview at the House of Representatives following her attendance to an event there.

Without giving names, De Lima said the charges will be filed “in a few weeks’ time.”

“We will file cases only by evidence, whether testimonial or from documents,” she said.

The supposed scam refers to the P10 billion in pork barrel — or the multi-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given to lawmakers every year — that went to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs). Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles has been accused of masterminding the scam.

Non-partisan

Meanwhile, De Lima, who as justice secretary has direct supervision of the NBI, assures the public of the non-partisanship of the team that investigated the scam.

“There is no such standard in segregating,” she said. “The NBI is not partisan in any investigation and it will not be affected or damaged by partisanship or color.”

She, however, stressed that “right now I can’t tell you if we’re filing cases against the opposition or the administration solons.”

De Lima did not also say if the NBI, through the Department of Justice (DOJ), is moving to freeze Napoles’ assets. She said the agency would like to hold some secrecy in its investigation.

“It’s not advisable that we announce in advance such moves,” she said, adding that she has instructed the NBI not to discuss the investigation with the media.

Bigger team

De Lima also noted that the team conducting the investigation has  grown significantly, due in part to the request of Napoles, who did not want the same team that took custody of supposed whistleblower Benhur Luy to handle the investigation for fear of conflict of interest.

“It’s a bigger and more enhanced team now. We already assigned additional men particularly from the anti-fraud and legal departments. Malaking team, under (my) supervision,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Justice secretary distanced herself from any possible congressional probe on the matter, leaving the decision in the hands of lawmakers.

"We leave it to them when they would want to start their own investigation, although the leaderships of the Senate and the House have announced that they want to wait for the NBI investigation first so as not to muddle things," De Lima said. — KBK, GMA News

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