Malacanang on Wednesday confirmed that President Benigno Aquino III had his photograph taken with Jeane Napoles, daughter of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, which has gone viral.
Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the photo was taken in Cebu City on Nov. 30 last year during the National Thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of Pedro Calungsod.
Photo ops. After President Aquino denied knowing suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles, a picture of him with Napoles’ equally controversial daughter Jeane, known for a purportedly lavish lifestyle in the United States, emerged on Wednesday. The photo shown is a television grab from ABS-CBN. The Palace confirmed the photo was real, but said it was just a photo opportunity for the public in Cebu last year. Only the other day, Senate President Franklin Drilon also came under fire for yet another “photo op” with Napoles herself.
Valte said they were not aware of the photo before it was shown in a television program on Tuesday, after which the Palace was able to confirm its authenticity.
“She had her photo taken with the President, as did a dozen other people who lined up to have their photo taken with him. I won’t be surprised because a lot of people ask for their photos to be taken with the President,” Valte said.
“It’s a normal thing to happen. It is not extraordinary.”
Valte made her statement even as Malacañang said the release of the photographs of Senate President Franklin Drilon showing him partying with Janet Lim-Napoles was a deliberate attempt to besmirch the reputation of the administration’s ally.
“I think there’s an attempt to make Senator Drilon guilty by photography,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“The point is, it’s not so much the pictures that should be the basis for judgment...The basis for evaluation should be...acts that involve taxpayers’ money.”
At the Senate, some staff of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.—the lawmakers linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam—had reportedly gone on leave.
The Commission on Audit had earlier reported that some senatorial staff had signed documents channeling pork barrel appropriations to bogus non-government organizations allegedly put up by Janet Lim-Napoles.
At the Justice Department, Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday bewailed what she said were attempts by some sectors in the Media to preempt the NBI investigation of the pork barrel scam.
She was referring to a newspaper report naming Enrile, Estrada and Revilla as respondents in the plunder case that the NBI was readying against Napoles.
“The [report] is preempting the filing of the charges, which is also adding pressure to the NBI team,” De Lima said.
Aquino on Tuesday was asked if he knew Janet Lim-Napoles personally, and he said he could not remember having seen her in any event when he was a lawmaker.
“When I saw her when she came to the Palace, I was trying to look at her and I don’t remember her,” Aquino said.
“I am normally very good with faces, [but] maybe sometimes I’m poor with names. She doesn’t look familiar whatsoever.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rey E. Requejo