DOJ sets up task force for new pork barrel scam probe

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun a reinvestigation into the multi-million-peso pork barrel scam, forming a new task force to do the job.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday, June 26, said the task force is set up to correct the "miscarriage of justice" in the probe carried out by the Aquino administration. Senator Leila de Lima, now jailed by the Duterte administration for alleged links to the drug trade, was the justice secretary at the time.

Aguirre, in a text message, said, "I have already ordered the reorganization of the task force on PDAF cases for the purpose of reinvestigation." He was referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers that were allegedly channeled to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

The task force, made up of National Bureau of Investigation agents and state prosecutors, and will begin the reinvestigation by looking at the affidavit and documents to be submitted by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

This task force will replace the one created by De Lima. The past investigation led to the filing of plunder, graft, and malversation charges against 3 former senators: Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada.

Aguirre said the documents submitted by Napoles would be validated through records and data from relevant government agencies, like the Commission on Audit (COA).

The justice secretary also assured the public no selective justice would occur, pointing out that the  previous administration charged only the opposition members.

In May, Aguirre said Napoles would file a complaint against former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, De Lima, Franklin Drilon, and Antonio Trillanes IV for supposedly being part of the pork barrel scam. Napoles also tagged Abad as her mentor in the scam.

Aguirre also put forth the possibility of turning Napoles into a state witness, though he emphasized Napoles would be unable to win her freedom by providing leads and a testimony regarding anomalies.

He said the reinvestigation was not meant to set Napoles free or free her from liability for her alleged involvement in the scam. Her participation in the reinvestigation will not affect the cases currently pending before the Sandiganbayan. – Rappler.com