Senator: Start forfeiture proceedings vs Napoles

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Friday, June 6, 2014


SENATE Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said that forfeiture proceedings should be immediately initiated against the properties of Janet Lim-Napoles and those who have been charged in the pork barrel scam, saying that Filipino families must get their money back.

"Kapag nakita mo na hindi proportional ang pera ng isang public official dun sa kanyang kita ay pwede ng kunin ng gobyerno ang properties na ito. Ang tanong ko nga, meron na ba tayong na-file na forfeiture cases sa mga senador? Easier ito sa graft at plunder; ito mas mabilis," Cayetano said.

Citing Republic Act (RA) 6770 and RA 1379, Cayetano said the Office of the Ombudsman has the power to conduct a preliminary investigation on civil forfeiture upon a complaint filed by a citizen taxpayer.

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A Manila Court has previously issued a freeze order on the bank accounts and properties Napoles following the petition for civil forfeiture of assets filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in February.

Cayetano said the freeze order should cover all her properties, including the pricey jewelry collection she purchased using pork barrel funds intended for Filipino families.

News reports show Napoles' collection includes diamond necklaces and tennis bracelets, necklaces and bracelets with South Sea pearls, and other pieces with big precious stones.

It was also reported that Napoles has shares of stocks in several corporations, and holds memberships in exclusive clubs. Napoles likewise owns a Ritz Carlton Residences condominium unit in Los Angeles, a residential lot and preschool in California and 20 vehicles, all of which are yet to be included in the freeze order.

Cayetano also doubts the claim of Napoles that she pocketed only P2 billion from the scam.

"Bakit hindi nila ipakita yung computation? Paano naging P2 billion? Maraming pinakitang properties si Ms. Napoles na negosyo eh, may hotel sa Amerika, may sinasabi siyang coal firm sa Indonesia. Dapat isauli mo yung buo," he said.

"Talagang inu-unti-unti nila yung pag-o-offer sa gobyerno. Parang naniniwala ako sa whistleblower na meron silang kausap para dito sa immunity o sa state witness at parang pa-unti-unti, pinapabango nila sarili nila. Kung isasauli, sino bang may ayaw? Kung yan ay sinauli, ilang notebook at classroom ang maibibigay sa ating mga kabataan," he added.

Cayetano also lauded the Office of the Ombudsman for granting immunity to pork scam whistleblowers and for recognizing Janet Lim-Napoles to be the "most guilty" in the misuse of government funds.

"Tama ang desisyon ng Ombudsman to side with the whistleblowers. This will give them the assurance na magpalit man ng administrasyon, protektado pa rin sila. I laud the ombudsman for her decision," he said.

The Ombudsman denied Napoles' bid for immunity for "not meeting the qualifications to become an immune witness."

"I have always been 100 percent against any type of immunity for Napoles and I'm happy with the Ombudsman's decision," Cayetano added.

He also said that the administration should provide more incentives and protection to whistleblowers to encourage them to step forward and reveal what they know in hopes of exposing corruption in government.

"There is a need to finally pass the Whistleblowers Act and expand and strengthen our Witness Protection Program to protect witnesses from threats and make sure that their role in exposing anomalies will not harm their family’s safety and livelihood," Cayetano said.

He said the government must learn from other countries where the safety and livelihood of whistleblowers are protected and ensured long after they have testified.

"Many potential whistleblowers are now watching this case and if we show them that people like them will be protected and taken care of by the state then we will see more courageous people willing to risk their lives to expose and weed out corruption from government," he added.

Cayetano also said that President Benigno Aquino III, unlike the previous administrations, is not the type of leader who sweeps issues of corruption under the rug.

"To be fair sa Presidente, I think si President Aquino is very sincere sa anti-corruption drive. Nakita naman natin, siya ang nag-umpisa nito, siya ang nagpa-imbestiga sa COA (Commission on Audit); siya naman ay very consistent sa anti-corruption (drive)," the senator said.

Cayetano said he believes that the President is committed to reveal, investigate, and prosecute all those who were involved in the pork barrel scam.

He also advised the President not to let critics get in the way of the administration's anti-corruption drive and instead focus on ensuring that all pork scam conspirators are made accountable.

"Ang gawin ng Malacanang, huwag pansinin ang mga kritiko na tinuturo ang Presidente o ang Malacanang, i-push lang nila ng i-push ang mga ginagawa nila ngayon," Cayetano said.

He added that Malacanang should not let Napoles confuse the public and destroy the credibility of the whistleblowers in favor of her "political supporters."

"Si Ms. Napoles ang nakikinabang dahil nagugulo ang usapan at nahihirit niya ang kanyang immunity o pagiging state witness. Nagagantihan niya ang mga nag-i-imbestiga sa kanya sa pagdawit ng pangalan nila. Nakikinabang din dito yung mga makapangyarihan sa likod niya na hindi pa napapangalanan pati na rin ang mga political supporters niya," Cayetano said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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