MANILA: With her tenure at the Department of Justice about to end, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is not sure about prioritizing the filing of charges against the third batch of former and current lawmakers allegedly involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam and the second batch of lawmakers implicated in the misuse of the Malampaya funds.
“They [cases] are still under study. I don’t know if they will be included in the [cases] I’ll be concentrating on [before I leave office] because there are really very important matters on my table. Of course, we will see, if they can be included later on,” De
Lima told reporters.
De Lima, who is being eyed as a senatorial candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, would have to resign from her post once she files her certificate of candidacy in October. As a presidential appointee, her tenure ends when President Aquino steps down in June next year.
The other day, she said she would be preparing a list of cases that she would prioritize before leaving office.
De Lima noted that the main issue with the third batch of pork barrel cases, which are being handled by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), pertained to the authenticity of the signatures of the former and current lawmakers and the other personalities involved in the two fund scams.
“The signatures [on the documents] are different from the supposed real signatures of those involved. But I asked them to study how to go through that so we can file the case,” she said.
Asked if her pronouncement meant she was not sure the cases would be filed, De Lima replied, “It really depends on the review.”
With regards to the Malampaya fund scam, De Lima said she was unable to personally monitor developments because she had “more urgent” cases that she was handling.
“My premise is that the task force under Undersecretary Jose Justiniano is continuously working on that,” she said.
The P900-million Malampaya fund mess pertains to the misuse of the proceeds from the state-owned gas field off Palawan. The Malampaya fund, intended for typhoon victims, was said to be diverted to politicians’ projects.
De Lima said the processing of the third batch of pork barrel cases was taking a long time “because we need to be sure.”
She said President Aquino wanted to make sure the cases would prosper after they were turned over to the Ombudsman.
“The guidance given to me by ‘Sir’ (Aquino) was that in filing cases like these, we must make sure they will stick, just like the first two batches of the pork barrel cases. So far, none of them have been rejected by the Ombudsman,” De Lima said.
She denied allegations the cases were taking too long to be filed because those implicated were allies of the Aquino administration.
“Not all those in the first and second batches were [members of the] opposition. And the NBI does not take into consideration whether [the one to be charged] is an ally or not. We just want to be very sure, that the cases will be accepted by the Ombudsman,” she said.
In September 2013, charges were filed against the first batch of 38 respondents in the PDAF cases. They included Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who are now all detained. Also included in this batch were former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Edgar Valdez, Rodolfo Plaza, Samuel Dangwa and Constantino Jaraula.