MANILA, Philippines – After turning down calls for his resignation, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr is now the one asking for the head of the Senate blue ribbon committee chairman should he refuse to seek the release of the controversial Napoles list.
A combative Revilla issued a challenge to chairman Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III about the list of lawmakers that alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles implicated in the controversy.
Revilla was responding to the statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that she will not release the list unless the Senate compels her to do so.
“Ngayon, I challenge the chairman of the blue ribbon committee na i-compel niya ito, obligahin si Secretary De Lima ilabas ang listahang ito,” Revilla told reporters on Tuesday, May 6. (Now, I challenge the chairman to compel, oblige Secretary De Lima to release this list.)
“Dahil noong time na tinitira nila kami sa blue ribbon, wala silang pakundangan gulphin kami eh.” (During the time they were attacking us in the blue ribbon committee, they had no qualms about beating us up.)
Asked what will happen if Guingona rejects his challenge, Revilla said, “I think he should resign as chairman of the blue ribbon committee.”
A visibly peeved Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Revilla’s co-accused in the plunder case, smarted over De Lima’s refusal to release the list.
“What I’m saying [is] bakit niya ibabato sa Senate, sa blue ribbon committee? Pwede naman niyang i-release on her own kung talagang meron siyang listahan,” Estrada said.
(What I’m saying is why is she passing the buck to the Senate, to the blue ribbon committee, when she can release the list on her own if she really has a list?)
Estrada criticized De Lima for what he called her uncharacteristic silence. “The problem with her is she’s too talkative. Now she’s very, very silent about it …. She’s not even uttering a word with regard to the list she holds allegedly.”
Estrada, Revilla and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile face plunder charges for allegedly conniving with Napoles to funnel their pork barrel funds to her fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
Two weeks ago, Napoles made a surprise turnaround and did a “tell-all” to De Lima where she reportedly named at least 12 senators and over 100 congressmen as having involvement in the scam.
While De Lima confirmed that the 3 opposition senators were in the list, she repeatedly refused to name the other lawmakers Napoles had implicated pending verification.
Speculation has since been rife about the contents of the list, which reportedly includes top administration allies. Whistleblower Sandra Cam and some netizens warned against attempts to “sanitize the list.”
‘Why the double standard?’
Estrada questioned De Lima’s supposed double standard in refusing to release the list.
“When I watched her on TV, a reporter asked her, ‘Are the 3 senators included?’ She said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ When she was asked, ‘What about the other senators, congressmen or Cabinet secretary?’ She said, ‘Well, we’re still evaluating it.’ That’s unfair. What’s there to evaluate? What’s there to vet? Why is she only pinning the 3 of us down?”
Revilla echoed the sentiment, reiterating that it is best for De Lima to release the list on her own. He said after all, the names were already reported in newspapers.
“Noong lumabas ang pangalan namin, vinerify ba nila? Mabilis na nilabas kaagad nila sa media eh. Siguro mas maganda ilabas na lang lahat kung anuman ang nasa listahan na iyan para mabigyan ng pagkakataon sumagot ang mga taong sinasangkot dito. Unfair para sa kanila na madawit dito,” Revilla said.
(When our names came out, did they verify it? They immediately released it to the media. Maybe it’s better that she just release all the names in the list to give a chance to the people involved to respond. It’s unfair for them to be implicated here.)
When De Lima confirmed the inclusion of the 3 opposition senators in the Napoles list, the Ombudsman had already decided to indict them for plunder. The Ombudsman's decision was based on its investigation using state audit documents, and the testimonies of Napoles’ aides-turned-whistleblowers.
Told about De Lima’s statement that she will appeal to the Senate to be given time to verify the list when compelled, Estrada retorted, “Drama. That’s all zarzuela.”
Committee will likely vote to release list
Sought for comment, Guingona’s staff said the senator is still on a trip to Australia and is due to return on Wednesday. The committee chairman’s stand is that the panel should first wait for De Lima to evaluate Napoles’ affidavit before deciding whether to summon her to a hearing or not.
Blue ribbon committee vice chairman Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III sympathized with the opposition senators that withholding the list is unfair to them and the other senators whose names are cropping up.
Osmeña’s position is that the committee should reopen the investigation and subpoena the list.
He said the panel will soon meet in caucus to decide on the issue. This early, Osmeña already knows what the outcome will be.
“If it’s brought to a vote, it would be reopened.”
Still, Osmeña said the committee has to go through the proper process.
“We will talk to the senators, invite [De Lima] to a caucus and hear her side. Maybe, she also has a point. But my fear is that the public will say we are covering this up,” Osmeña said. – Rappler.com