Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has denied that he had anything to do with the allegations tagging Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as the pork barrel scam.
Speaking before his departure to India on Wednesday, January 24, Duterte said he would not plot against Drilon as he considers the veteran lawmaker his “friend.”
“Senator Drilon, if I talked to somebody urging a case against you sa PDAF, bring that person in my presence and I will resign because you are my friend,” the president said.
Duterte further stressed that it is not his “style” to run after politicians.
“It is not in my system. It is not in my style na maghabol ng (It’s not my style to run after)… Magdala ka ng tao dito kung sinong inutusan ko ‘yang sa (Bring me whoever I ordered over that) PDAF,” he added.
Duterte made the remark after businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is also accused as the “mastermind” of the PDAF scam, revealed in a television interview that she provided funds for Drilon’s campaign.
During her interview with Erwin Tulfo over state-run Radyo Pilipinas on Monday, January 22, Napoles claimed that she gave at least P5 million to the senator’s campaign kitty in 2010. Tulfo is a supporter of Duterte.
But Drilon has denied receiving funds from Napoles, branding her claim as “harassment.”
“We deny having received any campaign contribution from Napoles,” Drilon said. “We will not further comment on such obviously fake news intended to harass the opposition.”
The senator also added that his Statements of Contributions and Expenditures filed at the Commission on Elections were open to public scrutiny.
Reacting to Duterte’s statements, Drilon thanked the president as he expressed hope that they would remain “friends” despite their disagreements on matters of policy.
“I remain grateful for, and acknowledge, the support the president gave me, as mayor of Davao City, in all my election campaigns. I hope we remain friends. He has my full respect,” the Senate minority leader said.
In an earlier statement, Malacañang also denied that the Duterte administration had something to do with allegations against Drilon but said that the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice (DOJ) should conduct an investigation into the matter.
“The Constitution in providing for accountability of public officers is the legal basis for the relevant government agency to conduct an investigation,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Tuesday, January 23.
“I would hope that the Ombudsman on its own will conduct its probe and I think the Department of Justice also on its own should conduct its own probe, based on the statement,” he added.
Describing Napoles as the “central figure” in the pork barrel scam, Roque further remarked that she should have evidence to support her claim.
“Obviously Janet Lim-Napoles is the central figure in this scam, let her speak, and I’m sure in addition to what she has to say, she would have physical evidence to back up whatever it is that she alleges,” he said.