The Department of Justice will bring charges against two officials of the National Bureau of Investigation for tipping off Janet Lim-Napoles on the issuance of a warrant for her arrest on Aug. 14, Malacañang said Sunday.
The tip gave Napoles, 49, lead time over the authorities, and she went on the lam for two weeks before surrendering to Mr. Aquino on Wednesday night.
President Aquino told Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday night that charges were being readied against the two NBI officials, who he said had ties to two senators who had been implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Napoles.
Mr. Aquino did not name the two NBI officials to avoid preempting the filing of charges against them.
He also did not name the two senators, but one is known to have figured in a confrontation between policemen and confidential agents of the NBI during the recent midterm elections.
Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, disappeared on Aug. 14, hours before the Makati City Regional Trial Court issued a warrant for their arrest in connection with the serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy, their cousin and Napoles’ former aide who blew the whistle on her alleged racket.
NBI agents staked out 28 known houses of Napoles in Metro Manila on that day, but the tip from their own headquarters enabled the businesswoman and her brother to flee.
“Somebody tipped them off,” a frustrated Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters the next day.
On Wednesday, President Aquino announced a P10-million reward for information that would lead to Napoles’ arrest.
That night, Napoles, accompanied by her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, surrendered to the President in Malacañang.
Mr. Aquino said there had been leaks of information on the manhunt for Napoles.
He said even Napoles’ surrender was leaked minutes after he had informed De Lima about it.
The flight of Napoles and Lim on Aug. 14 was the last straw for the government, but Mr. Aquino did not disclose when the justice department would bring the charges against the leakers at the NBI.
Speaking on state-run radio dzRB on Sunday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said there was no deadline for filing charges against the two NBI officials.
But the legal action against the two officials is one of the department’s priorities, Valte said.
“I’m sure you’re curious about who they are. Let’s just wait for the filing of cases against them,” she said.
The infidelity of two officials under her supervision did not hurt De Lima’s standing in Malacañang.
Valte said De Lima continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President.
“There’s no question [about] the President’s trust and confidence in Secretary De Lima,” she said.
She said the President apprised De Lima of the circumstances leading to Napoles’ surrender late Wednesday.
Mr. Aquino told Inquirer editors and reporters that he informed De Lima about Napoles’ surrender the moment Napoles was secured by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who had been involved in the arrangements for the fugitive to turn herself in.
Napoles chose to surrender to Mr. Aquino because she distrusted the NBI, which had cracked her case and was preparing to bring plunder charges against her.
Her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, made arrangements for Lacierda to bring her in.
Lacierda found Napoles in a cemetery in Taguig City, took her to Malacañang, and presented her to the President.
To ensure the safety of Napoles, Mr. Aquino went with the security group that took her to Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, that same night for booking.
Lacierda was criticized for his active involvement in Napoles’ surrender, and there were suggestions that he be prosecuted for harboring a fugitive.
But Valte, a lawyer, said charges of harboring a criminal against Lacierda would not prosper in the courts.
“It was the court that ordered the arrest. It was a voluntary surrender, and [Napoles] was immediately turned over to the lawful authorities,” she said.
The court ordered Napoles detained at the Makati City Jail. But jail officials said they did not have enough personnel to guarantee the safety of Napoles, who claimed there was a “grave threat” to her life.
The court ordered her transferred to police special forces training camp in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, where former President Joseph Estrada (now mayor of Manila), his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, and Sen. Gregorio Honasan had been detained.
Napoles was transferred to the fort early Sunday.