NEW YORK – Businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco said yesterday that retired archbishop Oscar Cruz told him his list of persons allegedly receiving jueteng payoffs was unsubstantiated and thus should not be dignified.
Cojuangco, cousin of President Aquino and one of the members of the business delegation here, reiterated he did see Cruz not to attempt to shield the Chief Executive or Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, but just to help find out the truth.
Apparently, Cojuangco was peeved when repeatedly asked why he had to talk to Cruz, saying his decision to see the prelate did not have the blessings of Mr. Aquino.
Cojuangco said the bishop admitted he did not have hard evidence to back his allegations, so he did not bother to get the list from him and submit it to the President.
“On my part there’s no way I could substantiate the veracity of the list of names so I have no business submitting it to the President. I had to leave for this (trip),” Cojuangco said.
He said Cruz showed him the list during their meeting that did not last 10 minutes.
“I did not recognize most of the names. The only names I recognized were that of Undersecretary Puno and (former Philippine National Police chief Director) General (Jesus) Verzosa. I expressed this belief that the names were mentioned because I said they themselves told me that they are out to stamp out jueteng,” Cojuangco said, explaining that he talked with Cruz on his own because “everybody has to help the government do its function and this is my way of helping.”
“I have not spoken to the President at all. There’s no reason I should speak to him if the list is unsubstantiated. Would you give a list to your editor if you can’t validate? What’s your answer? Yes or no?” he asked reporters, particularly turning to Ging Reyes of ABS-CBN Channel 2.
Reyes replied: “I have to do my job of verifying it.”
“If you cannot substantiate will you give the list to your editor, yes or no? What’s your answer?” Cojuangco again asked, to which Reyes replied: “I have to discuss it with my editor.”
“But if you can’t substantiate the list will you still give the list? If you have a story which you can’t validate will you submit it?” he pressed.
“I will not report it,” Reyes said.
“That is not what I mean. Even the journalist cannot report anything that’s unsubstantiated. So that’s it. That’s all I have to say. I only spent five to 10 minutes there and this is longer than the 10 minutes that we spoke with the bishop,” Cojuangco said.
When asked about the motive behind the jueteng exposé, he said he wants the media “to focus on the President’s purpose for coming here and that is to raise jobs for the Philippines.”
“Let’s not waste time, you already know it’s unsubstantiated and you’re still talking about it. Do you want to talk for 10 minutes more? Twenty minutes more?” he said.
PNP ready to secure Cruz
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is ready to provide security for retired archbishop Cruz, who fears for his life after his exposé on jueteng operations and payola.
PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the police leadership would coordinate with the religious leader for the security detail that would ensure his safety.
“We have to ensure the safety of the good bishop,” said the PNP spokesman.
Cruz said he has been receiving death threats via text message and letters following his exposé on jueteng operations and the people who received payola.
The PNP spokesman noted that the prelate initially refused to accept security escorts from the police, prompting the police force to just secure areas frequented by the bishop.
“When he is at home our police will be outside. In other areas, patrol and mobile will be going around,” the police official said.
The bishop’s exposé on jueteng was corroborated by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago but the personalities named denied any knowledge of or involvement in the illegal activities.
Aurea Calica, Philippine Star