MANILA (Mabuhay) — The jobs of Budget Sec. Butch Abad, Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director Joel Villanueva are safe, at least for now.
On Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III said that he will not fire the Cabinet officials for being mentioned on the list of government officials supposedly involved in the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles without any proof.
“Mali siguro na may nag-criticize [lang], dapat tanggalin na kaagad. Siguro ang importante: May ebidensya nga ba?” Aquino told reporters during the inauguration of a new solar plant in Negros Occidental.
The President’s remark came following calls by government ciritics for Aquino to relieve Abad, Alcala and Villanueva from their posts for being included on the unsigned Napoles list and affidavit turned over by former Senator Panfilo Lacson to the Senate blue ribbon committee.
The President, however, said that is not how the justice system works.
“Baka hindi alam ng ating mga kaibigan sa kaliwa ..pero dito sa bansa natin karapatan ng bawat isa ang pinangangalagaan at isa sa mga tenets ng ating batas ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Hindi ‘guilty until you prove yourself innocent’” he said.
He added that the bottom line was whether he still trusts his Cabinet officials.
“May tiwala ba ako sa kanila o wala? Ano ba actually ang allegation sa kanila? At ipinangako ko naman sa inyo—at palagay ko nakita na ninyo—pag may ebidensya tayong supisyente, dalhin natin sila sa korte, at yun nga ang nangyari na nung dinala yung ating information sa Ombudsman,” he said.
Earlier, the Palace said Abad still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.
On the other hand, Aquino said Villanueva already showed him the alleged document linking him to the pork barrel scam.
“Yung party-list na nakalagay doon sa letterhead, doon sa alleged document from him, ay ibang party-list [doon sa party-list niya],” he said. Villanueva served as representative of the CIBAC party-list in the House of Representatives.
The President said they cannot just accuse and file cases against anyone, otherwise these will just be dismissed like the graft complaint against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the multi-million fertilizer fund scam.
“So palagay ko obligasyon ko sa sambayanan manigurado [na] pag naghain tayo ng kaso matibay ang ebidensya para talagang maparusahan yung nagkasala,” he said.
Earlier, the President said he knows of at least three different lists of supposed pork scam conspirators coming from different people.
On Thursday, he said one of the lists named 14 senators, and the other two 11.
“So bakit iisa ang source, paiba-iba ‘yung tinutukoy niya? Tapos kahapon sa dyaryo 25 na yung nakalagay naman na pangalan – both incumbent and ‘yung ex-senators,” he said.
“Ihahain ba natin yung kaso ng 25 bahala na si Batman? Or manigurado tayo na pag hinain natin, kung tayo’y naniwala na may ginawa itong taong ito, nandyan lahat ng ebidensya, isampa natin sa tamang oras yung kaso para siguradong magbayad yung mga may utang sa bansa?” he added.
The Palace earlier dismissed the unsigned affidavit submitted by former Senator Panfilo Lacson and released by the Senate blue ribbon committee as just a mere scrap of paper.
On Wednesday, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima said there is already an initial signed affidavit from Napoles but that it is still a “work in progress.”
Napoles had earlier committed to come clean about the scam in the hopes of being granted immunity.
She faces a serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy. She also faces plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam. along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.
The President, however, said there is a need to vet her testimony further.
“Ikaw ba ay tutulong maglinaw sa usaping ito o ang habol mo lang paguluhin? Para dahil kaka-explore natin nung lahat ng akusasyon, kaka-imbestiga, gusto nilang ma-time out na ako para wala nang maisampa yung kaso. So syempre kailangan mag-ingat tayo diyan,” he said.
“Importante makuha natin yung kanyang testimonya na makakatulong malaman yung katotohanan imbes na kung saan-saan tayo dinadala na para—baka gusto nila tayong mahilo at mawindang at hindi tayo papayag noon,” he added. (MNS)