President Benigno Aquino III appeared to be the go-to-guy of Janet Lim-Napoles in times of need—from sending him a letter earlier this year and telling him of an extortion attempt on her to surrendering to him after being a fugitive from justice for nearly two weeks.
Mr. Aquino himself volunteered to escort Napoles, the alleged brains behind a P10-billion pork barrel scam, to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City late Wednesday night, giving the impression of how well connected Napoles was.
But Interior Secretary Mar Roxas defended the President at an impromptu press conference at midnight in Camp Crame. The President had left by then.
“She’s not an influential person. What is important is the President received surrender feelers from her and he decided that Ms Napoles, being a possible witness or a [fugitive] because of the scope of this anomaly that is being investigated by the government, everything should be done so that she would be returned to the custody or ambit of the law,” Roxas said in Filipino.
Roxas added that it was the President who volunteered to go with him, PNP Director General Alan Purisima, Napoles, her husband Jimmy, and their lawyer Lorna Kapunan to Camp Crame.
“Nung paalis na kami [from Malacañang] sabi ng Pangulo ‘puyat na tayo lahat damay-damay na tayo. Ihatid ko na kayo (When we were about to leave Malacañang, the President said ‘we all lack sleep. I’ll just accompany you),’” Roxas said.
Napoles was supposedly being held in a room at the PNP headquarters where she was being held before police turned her over to the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
Roxas said Napoles was being guarded by the PNP and the Special Action Force. Napoles sought the President’s assurance of her safety as she was supposed to be under grave threat. Roxas, however, did not elaborate on exactly how Napoles’ life was in danger.
The court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Napoles and that of her brother, Reynald, in connection with the serious illegal detention case lodged against her by scam whistle-blower, Benhur Luy, her relative and former employee.
Reynald remains at large.
After word got around that Napoles had surrendered, journalists began arriving in Camp Crame.
But everyone was held at the gate. Police told the media that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had given orders not to let anyone in. Mr. Aquino had arrived in Camp Crame before 11 p.m.
The media was allowed to enter the camp only after the President’s convoy had left shortly before midnight.
Journalists were also made to stay only up to the flagpole in front of the PNP headquarters building, where Purisima and other ranking PNP officials hold office.