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Cayetano on Napoles case: This gov’t won’t act without strategy

WHAT’S THE PLAN? File photo of President Rodrigo Duterte and his former running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Although he admitted to not knowing why the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) moved to acquit alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in a detention case for which she was convicted, staunch administration ally Senator Alan Peter Cayetano insisted that the Duterte administration “does not act without a strategy.”

“Like you, I am also asking for an explanation. And I know that this government does not act without a strategy,” said Cayetano on Thursday, February 16, in a chance interview.

The senator, who was President Rodrigo Duterte’s running mate during the 2016 elections, was asked about Solicitor General Jose Calida’s decision to file a manifestation before the Court of Appeals recommending Napoles’ acquittal from a serious illegal detention case.

Napoles is the supposed mastermind of the pork barrel scam, or the pocketing of public funds by channeling legislators’ discretionary funds into bogus non-governmental organizations. She has been behind bars since 2013, when she was first detained for supposedly kidnapping key pork barrel scam whistleblower and former aide Benhur Luy. (READ: Madame "Jenny" Napoles, woman in the eye of the storm)

She was judged guilty in 2015 by a Makati Regional Trial Court and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or a jail term of up to 40 years.

“I know for a fact that not even half of the [legislators with whom Napoles transacted] were charged and jailed. There are those who were protected,” said Cayetano. (READ: How credible is Janet Napoles?)

He added: “I don’t know right now if this is only a strategy or if it’s only the Solicitor General. Like all of you, I want the SolGen to answer,” said Cayetano.

Duterte’s plan

But Duterte did say he had plans about the Napoles case.

In his second month in office, in August 2016, the President declared: "In between, far and wide in this controversy, I will now raise again the Napoles issue." He was referring to the list of lawmakers implicated in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam that he said needed to be revisited. (READ: Duterte: Napoles list deserves a second look)

Barely 5 months after that statement, the OSG intervened in the conviction of Napoles, which is under appeal at the Court of Appeals.

Calida has come under fire for this move, with Senator Leila de Lima describing it as both "questionable" and "suspicious."

Calida denied speculation that the government would be striking a deal with Napoles for her to implicate personalities in the opposition in the pork barrel scam.

Calida insisted that his office was only after “the rule of law.” The government’s chief counsel also distanced himself from Duterte’s earlier statement on the Napoles list.

Under the previous Aquino administration, Napoles submitted a list of legislators who supposedly benefited from the pork barrel scam. The list then was a mix of both allies and enemies of former president Benigno Aquino III. But only a handful of those legislators have seen their day in court, such as then opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada.

Cayetano insisted: “I will guarantee you that the President will not allow any kind of corruption in his administration and he will not absolve those who were corrupt in past administrations.”

Pressed if he was privy to any “strategy” in the SolGen’s moves, Cayetano said: “I do not know. All I am saying is that I know [Duterte] is very strategic.” –