Bishop questions special treatment
A Catholic bishop on Tuesday questioned the special treatment being given by the government to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, saying she should be treated like a common prisoner and should not enjoy the same privileges given to former President Joseph Estrada and Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari who were also detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Laguna province.
“It’s so obvious that the treatment given to Napoles is very far from how a common prisoner is treated. That’s why we are asking, why? Why is she being protected so much? Why has she been given so much importance? She’s been elevated to [Estrada] and Misuari’s level,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo told reporters.
Pabillo also said the government should not be distracted by giving VIP treatment to Napoles in ensuring that the prosecution of all those involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam would not be slowed down.
“What is important in this issue is that the process must be fast-tracked because the longer it takes, the more complications will occur,” the prelate added.
Pabillo was also wary of plans to hold court hearings at Fort Sto. Domingo instead of being held at the Makati Regional Trial Court, saying it might compromise transparency.
“Is that a transparent move? If they will hold the proceedings there, will there be transparency?” he asked.
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier proposed to hold the arraignment and trial of Napoles at Fort Sto. Domingo where the training school of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) is also located.
Mum on proposal
But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was mum on Drilon’s proposal.
De Lima said it would be the Makati City Regional Trial Court, which was trying the serious illegal detention case against Napoles, that would make that determination.
She said she would consult with the team of prosecutors in charge of the case against Napoles whether they would oppose or agree to the change of venue.
“I don’t want to make a stand at this point without consulting the prosecuting team,” De Lima told reporters.
Drilon made the proposal to cut costs for the government and ensure full security for Napoles.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said it was “common sense” that somebody could be planning to silence Napoles due to her alleged involvement in the anomalous disbursement of billions of pesos in pork barrel, formally called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Roxas brushed off insinuations that the government was overreacting in providing tight security to Napoles.
“It’s common sense, isn’t it? She knows many things. She may also be keeping many [pieces of] evidence, red book, blue book or other documents like canceled checks,” Roxas told reporters at Camp Crame.
“It’s possible that someone would try to silence her permanently,” he stressed.
“On the part of the government, two things may happen: We can prepare for it and let her face the full force of the law or something might happen to her and the people will accuse the government of conniving with those who wanted her dead,” Roxas said.
Not for personal interest
But Bishop Efraim Tendero, national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, said that while it was understandable why the government was giving Napoles protection, it must not be done for personal interest.
“We understand where the special treatment [being given to Napoles] is coming from … since she is the [alleged] mastermind, she can be the key to finding out the truth,” Tendero said at a forum hosted by the Catholic Media Network in Manila yesterday.
“We see that she is being treated differently and we understand, but what is important is that this should not be used for the interest of the few,” the bishop added.
Whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr. on Tuesday said Napoles might cite her medical condition and seek hospital arrest like former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“We can almost see the pattern. It’s laying the predicate. They are now priming the idea to the people that Janet Napoles is sick,” Lozada told the Inquirer.
“So why frame the idea that the next thing will happen is a hospital arrest for Napoles? I hope they won’t do it. But if they do, it will expose to the people who they truly are,” he said.
Lozada aired his suspicion after the Philippine National Police said Napoles suffered from hypertension early on Tuesday.
Senior Supt. Reuben Thedore Sindac, PNP spokesperson, said Napoles’ blood pressure shot up to 200/130 around 4:53 a.m. and that she complained of headache and nausea.
After taking medication, Sindac said Napoles’ blood pressure dropped to 140/80.
In his text message to the media, the PNP official referred to Napoles as a “patient.”
“Patient JLN (Napoles’ initials) complained about a tingling sensation [on] her left face,” Sindac said.
On Monday, a police doctor said Napoles had an “anxiety attack” during her first night in the bungalow inside the training school of the PNP Special Action Force.
Quoting the staff doctor, Sindac disclosed that Napoles was claustrophobic, which may have caused her anxiety attack. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño