P10-B SCAM: PALACE DEFENDS NOY'S EXEC SECRETARY OCHOA / PING URGES NBI TO PURSUE PROBE VIGOROUSLY


OCHOA

MANILA , JULY 15, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Michael Lim Ubac- Malacañang on Saturday defended Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. against insinuations he had knowledge of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview that Ochoa was being accused of “guilt by association.”

Guilt by association, she said, “does not stand up in any investigation or in any court.”

“I really don’t know why ES Ochoa is being linked (to the scam). ES has nothing to do with this, so we don’t know the intention of those dragging him into this,” Valte said.

When the alleged brains behind the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles, sat for an interview with the Inquirer on Friday in a Makati hotel, the first words she blurted out in Filipino were in defense of Ochoa.

“Hey, Ochoa has nothing to do with this case,” said Napoles, referring to the executive secretary, a founding partner of the MOST Law Office.

Ochoa divested himself of interests in the law firm after joining the Aquino administration in 2010.

MOST stands for Marcos (Liza Marcos, wife of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.), Ochoa, Edward Serapio and Joseph Tan.

Napoles insisted that “MOST is not my lawyer,” although an affidavit she had submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, which is probing her activities, named MOST as her lawyers.

Valte said she could not comment on the specific allegations, as the investigation had just begun.

But she said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had briefed President Benigno Aquino III on the NBI investigation.

Valte said she did not know how the President reacted to De Lima’s report because she was not present at the briefing.

She said Ochoa was apparently being linked to the scam because his former law firm was mentioned in the news reports.

But no one is attributing wrongdoing to Ochoa, she said.

Administration sources told the Inquirer that Napoles had been hobnobbing with the rich and powerful for a long time. She was last seen in a gathering that was attended by members of the Senate.

Last year, she attended the birthday party of Sen. Franklin Drilon at Club Filipino and lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes, the former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, at Shangri-La Hotel.

Campaign donor

According to the sources, the Liberal Party (LP) campaign for the elections in May received a donation of P10 million.

Valte said she had no information about that donation, and referred the Inquirer to the LP.

In a phone interview, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, spokesperson for the Liberal Party campaign, neither confirmed nor denied that Napoles had donated money to the ruling party.

“I don’t know. That’s easily verifiable because it’s in the statement of expenditures and contributions, which is a public document,” Quimbo said.

“I’ve never seen her in LP circles. I really don’t know if she contributed (to the LP), but I don’t recall. Although we had many contributors not known to me personally, so we’ll have to take a look at it,” he said.

Quimbo said Napoles was more identified with the “past administration.”

Napoles had written President Aquino to vehemently deny that she had engaged in shady deals described by an NBI agent as the “mother of all scams.”

FROM THE PHILSTAR

Ping to NBI: Don’t blink on ‘pork’ probe By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Panfilo Lacson  (photo)urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday to vigorously pursue a private firm accused of defrauding the government of billions through the pork barrel of some lawmakers.

“I just hope the NBI would not blink on the investigation and the DOJ (Department of Justice) will pursue the investigation, regardless of the pressure they get,” Lacson said.

A downside is if there are some senators and congressmen who are mentioned in the mess but are in fact innocent, he added.

Speaking over radio dzBB, Lacson said the DOJ and the NBI should be sure about their facts before they identify those involved in the P10-billion scam.

Lacson said the DOJ and the NBI should be sure about their facts before they identify those involved in the reported P10-billion scam.

The NBI is probing reports that the pork barrel of several lawmakers was funnelled to fictitious non-government organizations through a private clearinghouse.

Lacson said the probe should ensure no repeat of the scam.

He said he had heard reports of some lawmakers asking for commissions or making “insertions” in government projects.

Four to five senators had avidly used their Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel, he added.

He expressed hope that no scam would occur in the use of the pork barrel under the Aquino administration, which is implementing stringent preventive measures.

There are many ways of misusing the pork barrel, and the main objective for lawmakers is to earn a commission, he said.

Lacson eschewed the use of his pork barrel, amounting to about P200 million a year for each senator.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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