Lacierda says he’ll quit if Tatad proves claims

MANILA — Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he will resign if former senator Francisco Tatad produces evidence to prove his allegation that Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10 billion pork barrel scam, had lunch at the Palace before she surrendered on Aug. 28.

Lacierda, however, said Tatad would owe the Palace an apology if he is unable to prove his claim.

“He has not even identified the sources of [information about] this lunch with Napoles. You know, I’m still waiting for it. If he can prove to me that Napoles had lunch with the President, I will resign, simple as that,” Lacierda said.

“If he doesn’t prove his claim, then he should stop. He should apologize to us. We’re giving him too much news already. It’s all not true, obviously,” he added.

Tatad, citing well-placed sources at the Palace, said Napoles “arrived at 10:30 am, all by herself, without her lawyer, but accompanied by Lacierda alone, “who happens to be a lawyer.”

“She was immediately conducted to what is known as the ‘Music Room’ or ‘Ready Room’ where she remained closeted” with President Benigno Aquino III, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and the Malacanang spokesman for the next six hours, Tatad said.

“At lunch time, food was brought in by a secretary rather than the regular Malacañang waiters, and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras joined the meeting. He was followed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad at around 1 p.m., and [Executive Secretary Paquito] Ochoa a few minutes later. Between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Aquino stepped out three times to meet some official callers, then finally left for an unknown destination.”

Tatad said the meeting ended at 4:30 p.m., and “Lacierda left with Napoles, destination unknown.”

Lacierda also denied Tatad’s new column where he accused the Palace of using Napoles as conduit to release P69 billion in pork barrel funds to lawmakers to secure the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona and the passage of the Reproductive Health Law.

Lacierda said based on his recollection, the Priority Development Assistance Fund was never dangled by the Palace on the two issues.

“As far as we know, it was based on the judgment of the congressmen and the senators,” he said.

Lacierda said all Tatad had to do was check the Web site of the Department of Budget and Management to see the disbursements made to lawmakers.

“I can categorically say that’s not true…If he has any documents to prove that, then show it. He just keeps on giving us innuendos. We are a very transparent administration,” he said.

Tatad said his sources confirmed to him that at least P24 billion was disbursed by the Palace to effect Corona’s impeachment and removal.

Another P25 billion was released to secure the passage of the RH Law, while an extra P20 billion was “believed to have been released to the lawmakers as regular pork,” Tatad said.