Brief and unscheduled, the face-to-face meeting between Janet Lim-Napoles and President Aquino right in Malacañang late on Wednesday bolstered suspicions that the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam had allies in high places.
Malacañang on Thursday denied any special treatment when she was allowed entrance to the presidential Palace and “voluntarily” surrendered to Mr. Aquino.
Although there was nothing wrong with the President receiving fugitives from justice, Lacierda was asked whether it was appropriate for the President at this point, with all of the interlocking issues, to see Napoles.
To which Lacierda replied: “The factors that you mentioned are extraneous to the President personally. This does not involve the President personally. In the President’s mind, what is important is that we bring the truth out. We move the case forward. The concept of surrendering to a sitting President has always happened. That was not something new.”
“So whether it’s appropriate, the President found, this was the most appropriate time. There was an offer to surrender and if we did not take that offer, what would have been the repercussion? She would have been at large. Perhaps, she would have been still at large up to now and the case would not have moved forward because even if you prosecute without her, the case will not move forward,” said Lacierda.
The meeting does not mean that she is already “untouchable,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“I don’t know if that was the same sentiment that the people had when Luis Taruc surrendered to the President (Ramon Magsaysay) or when (Teodoro) Asedillo surrendered to President (Manuel) Quezon,” Lacierda said, referring to the two famous rebel leaders who had surrendered to the government.
“Did it make Asedillo untouchable? Did it make Luis Taruc untouchable?” Lacierda asked.
He said the case (related to pork barrel misuse) would move forward. “She will be prosecuted according to what evidence we have right now,” Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson said.
Asked about rumors that the Liberal Party received campaign donations from Napoles in the 2010 presidential and 2013 senatorial elections, Lacierda said:
“There is no record. According to the Comelec (Commission on Elections) … there is no reported donation—to the Liberal Party,” he said.
It’s not unprecedented that the President would be receiving suspected criminals or fugitives from the law but Malacañang is inviting criticisms from the public this time because some of its key officials have been linked, one way or the other, to Napoles.
MOST, the former law firm of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., had helped in the preparation of the counteraffidavit of Napoles with regard to the serious illegal detention case filed by Benhur Luy, one of the pork barrel whistle-blowers.
MOST stands for Marcos, Ochoa, Serapio and Tan law firm.
At a briefing in the Palace yesterday, Lacierda neither confirmed nor denied whether Napoles had said sorry to Ochoa, who was present at the meeting, because he was unfairly being linked to the pork barrel scam.
“Let me [check]. I might have missed that. I don’t know. I wasn’t—I was going in and out [of the meeting],” Lacierda said.
A consultant of the executive secretary was recently fired after the President himself learned that he had arranged the round-table dinner between Napoles and Inquirer editors and reporters two weeks ago.
Lacierda said administration critics were in a position to say those negative things “primarily because we already did the right thing.”
“There are two perspectives on this: either you are looking at the trees or you are looking at the forest. You’re looking at the trees right now. You’re talking about what a waste of time. But the point is: What is our purpose here? What was the standing order against Ms Janet Napoles? To secure her, to arrest her. She decided to voluntarily surrender. Shouldn’t we be happy?” he said.