Given the threat on her life, the Senate is enforcing a very tight security during Janet Lim-Napoles’ testimony on Thursday that could surpass the security arrangement during Chief Justice Renato Corona’s trial last year.
Napoles, the central figure in the pork barrel scandal that has implicated senators and House representatives, is appearing at the Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry for the first time to tell her side of the story.
Whether she clams up or spills the bean on her ties with lawmakers, her appearance has been much anticipated by some people riveted by revelations on the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“The security is even tighter than when Corona testified at his own impeachment trial,” Senate Sergeant at Arms Jose Balajadia Jr. said on the phone. After all, Napoles is a “high-risk personality.”
He said his office was deploying more men in and around the Senate complex by Manila Bay, especially the session hall where Napoles will face her former employees who blew the lid off her alleged multibillion-peso racket.
“There are threats on her life,” Balajadia said, citing Philippine National Police intelligence reports. “I’d rather believe them. I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario.”
Balajadia declined to give the number of personnel to be posted around the Senate complex during Napoles’ testimony for security reasons. “We have enough men,” he said.
Outside the Senate complex, security will be handled by the PNP that has custody of Napoles.
For her own security, Napoles is detained at a police training camp in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, south of Manila, while being tried for the illegal detention of her erstwhile chief-aide-turned-whistle-blower Benhur Luy in a Makati City court.
The Senate adopted tight security measures when the chamber, acting as an impeachment court, tried Corona from February to May last year for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
The trial drew hordes of people who packed the session hall every trial day to listen to the testimonies of witnesses and even Corona himself. Until the day when 20 senators voted to convict Corona, there was no breach in security.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, on Monday said the hearing would push through as scheduled on Thursday.
His colleague and committee vice chair, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, on Sunday proposed a postponement of the hearing by two weeks to allow more senators to attend it. Congress is on a Halloween break and won’t resume sessions until Nov. 18.
Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla, who are facing a plunder complaint over the scam in the Office of the Ombudsman with Napoles and 34 others, have inhibited themselves from previous hearings. They are expected to skip the hearing this Thursday.
“I’ll be there,” Senate President Franklin Drilon, who has strongly denied any personal ties with Napoles after his pictures with her went viral, said on the phone on Sunday night.
Napoles, who has personal knowledge of the extent of lawmakers’ involvement in her alleged racket, is expected to invoke her right against self-incrimination.
Guingona, however, was hopeful that she might spring a surprise and “tell the truth” about the scam. But he said the hearing might drag on if she invoked her right against self-incrimination each time.
“I just want to invite her and see what she has to say,” he told reporters last week.
The hearing, which starts at 10 a.m., is open to the public.
This early, everyone is advised to come early. “It will be first come, first served. We will add more chairs so the session hall can seat at least 300,” Balajadia said.
The public is also advised against bringing in deadly weapons and taking pictures during the hearing.
Originally posted: 8:37 pm | Monday, November 4th, 2013