DOJ starts ‘pork’ probe of Drilon, Trillanes
Edu Punay (Associated Press) - November 5, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has started its reinvestigation into the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is building up cases from evidence submitted to his office by former Manila councilor and anti-pork barrel advocate Greco Belgica and other sources as well as initial statements by accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

“There are many documents submitted to us, but the ones from Greco Belgica would already suffice. The NBI is now building up the cases,” Aguirre said in an interview.

He issued the statement in response to the recent call made by former Makati vice mayor and Campaign for Public Accountability (CPA) convenor Bobby Brillante for the reinvestigation into the pork barrel scam, particularly the supposed involvement of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Brillante also called on the Senate to conduct another investigation on the PDAF scam, saying the probe in the previous administration was selective as it only targeted three opposition senators then: Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla.

Drilon is a member of the political opposition, while Trillanes is a critic of President Duterte. Earlier, Trillanes challenged Duterte and his family to sign waivers on their bank accounts allegedly containing unexplained wealth worth millions of pesos.

Aguirre said Drilon and Trillanes have been implicated by Napoles in the PDAF scam.

“Napoles mentioned prominent personalities from the previous administration, including Senators Drilon and Trillanes,” he said.

But Aguirre refused to give further details so as not to preempt the NBI’s fact-finding probe.

Trillanes IV was unfazed by the reinvestigation of the DOJ into the PDAF scam.

He described the new probe as “just another propaganda move of DOJ.”

“Kung meron talaga akong ginawang kalokohan dyan sa PDAF na yan, last year pa dapat nila na-file yan (If I really did something illegal in that PDAF, they would have filed charges against me last year),” Trillanes said in a text message.

The senator earlier denied any involvement in any irregularity regarding PDAF, the Disbursement Acceleration Program funds or any government fund.

He stressed he was never mentioned in any of the so-called Napoles lists provided during the height of the investigations in 2013.

Drilon could not be reached for comment as he is still out of the country.

Earlier this year, Aguirre said Napoles cooperated with the DOJ’s plan to revisit the PDAF scam and was set to submit a tell-all affidavit.

Aguirre said Napoles also implicated former budget secretary Butch Abad and detained Senator Leila de Lima, but has yet to detail their alleged criminal liabilities.

During the previous administration, Napoles submitted to the DOJ a list of all lawmakers she had allegedly transacted with.

She tagged about a dozen senators and over 100 congressmen who benefitted from the PDAF scam that involved bogus non-government organizations, but only Enrile, Estrada and Revilla and several congressmen were indicted by the Sandiganbayan.

This supposed “selective justice” in the PDAF scam was among the issues raised by Duterte during his presidential campaign last year.

Recently, Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero have called for reopening of the probe into the pork barrel scam.

They stressed that the cases involving Napoles comprised less than half of the total amount that went to the pockets of unscrupulous public officials and their cohorts.

Escudero said he favors a reopening of the Senate investigation, especially if the DOJ could present new evidence that would pin down other involved personalities.

He said only P6 billion worth of PDAF was investigated in relation to the case of Napoles, while the Commission on Audit reported that P13 billion to P14 billion of public funds were unaccounted for.

For her part, Poe underscored the need to resolve the matter once and for all, adding that a number of personalities who have been previously named in past investigations have yet to come forward. – With Paolo Romero

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