She may be counsel to celebrities, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will have nothing to do with her while her client, Janet Lim-Napoles, is facing an investigation of allegations the head of the JLN Corp. diverted P10 billion in pork barrel funds meant for poor farmers into ghost projects.
De Lima told reporters on Wednesday that it would be improper for her to meet Lorna Kapunan, the newly hired lawyer of Napoles, at this point.
Kapunan reportedly sought a meeting with the justice secretary to play to her a tape recording of an alleged attempt by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation to extort money from Napoles, who has been accused by at least six of her former employees of defrauding the government of billions of pesos in state funds over the past 10 years.
“I don’t think it would be proper for me at this point to sit down and talk to them. They’re the subjects of an ongoing investigation,” she said, adding that this might become an “issue.”
“Now if what they are telling is true, they have proper courses of action and I hope they are not doing this to destroy the NBI so that the NBI would be discouraged, harassed and be intimidated,” De Lima said. She said the NBI would not be cowed by Napoles.
“My instruction to them is to do their job, just continue with the ongoing investigations,” she said.
Taken out of context
Contacted by the Inquirer, Kapunan said that the report on her attempt to see De Lima was “taken out of context.” She added that she simply wanted “to express our cooperation with the NBI investigation.”
Kapunan said Napoles wanted to submit evidence “but not to the same NBI team, that we have evidence of trying to extort money from our client.”
She also said her client wanted to know the composition of the NBI team conducting the investigation. She said the Napoles camp would call a news conference to discuss the alleged extortion attempt.
The Kapunan law firm is the fourth set of lawyers Napoles has hired to represent her in her current cases involving the pork barrel funds. Her previous lawyers included the Palace-connected MOST law office formed by Lisa Marcos, the wife of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Edward Serapio and Joseph Tan. Ochoa withdrew from the firm after he joined the Aquino administration.
NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas told the Inquirer he had ordered the agency’s special task force division to complete the investigation on the P10-billion racket as soon as possible.
Thorough probe ordered
“We want you to focus on an exhaustive and thorough investigation,” Rojas said of his instructions to his men. “Other issues will be addressed separately.”
Rojas declined to comment on the allegations of extortion against NBI operatives. “We will address the issue when it’s there,” he said.
Rojas said the NBI was also waiting for the resolution of its motion for reconsideration in the Department of Justice on its decision to scratch out kidnapping charges against Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim.
The two were accused of abducting and detaining Benhur Luy for three months after Napoles allegedly discovered that Luy wanted to start his own racket.
Napoles has denied any wrongdoing. She has accused Luy of taking out an unauthorized loan of P5 million and running away with P300,000 he was instructed to deposit.