Napoles accuses De Lima of extortion; senator calls her ‘liar’
Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of a P10-billion pork barrel scam, on Monday accused Sen. Leila de Lima of extorting money from her in connection with the serious illegal detention filed against her by scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
De Lima denied the accusation, calling Napoles “a pathological liar.”.
Napoles attended the plunder and graft pre-trial hearing on her case with detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada at the Sandiganbayan on Monday. She was escorted by officials of Correctional Institution for Women, the facility in Mandaluyong where she is detained.
‘No illegal detention happened’
In an ambush interview with reporters, Napoles accused De Lima of being among those who extorted money from her while her serious illegal detention case was pending at the Department of Justice (DOJ), of which at that time De Lima was the secretary.
“Wala naman po talagang illegal detention na nangyari,” Napoles said. “Ito po ay extortion lamang. Dinismiss na po ang kaso na ito sa DOJ noon pa.”
(“No illegal detention happened. This is extortion. The DOJ had dismissed the case before.“)
Asked who extorted money from her, Napoles said: “Isa si Secretary Leila de Lima (One of them is Secretary Leila De Lima).”
Napoles is serving a life sentence after being convicted for illegally detaining Luy, who was her finance officer.
It was under De Lima’s stint as justice secretary that the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed the plunder and graft complaints against three senators for allegedly earning millions of kickbacks from their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), which was spent on ghost projects for commissions.
The senators are Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.
It was also under De Lima’s tenure that the NBI rescued Luy from being illegally detained by Napoles.
In a statement, De Lima, who herself is under detention for drug-related charges at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, cautioned against believing the statement of someone like Napoles who was convicted by the court for a crime.
“Not everything that comes from a polluted source, especially a convicted criminal serving a prison sentence, with nothing to lose and who will do anything to get out of prison, is worth reacting to,” De Lima said. “Napoles’ allegation that I extorted, or attempted to extort, money from her is one of them.”
“Napoles has the propensity to lie, being the mastermind of the PDAF scam that funnelled billions of public funds to the pockets of legislators and executive officials,” she added. “When asked who among the senators and congressmen were her clients, she asked it depends on whom we wanted implicated. That is when I knew that Napoles is a liar and will lie and say anything to save herself and keep the money she stole from the government.”
De Lima said Napoles was not chosen as a credible state witness then because of her propensity to lie and fabricate her testimonies and implicate other government officials in the scam.
“That is when we decided that she will never be a credible witness because of her eager willingness to fabricate her testimony and implicate politicians in order to please government handlers,” De Lima said. “I refused to be her handler because she is a criminal, convicted for kidnapping and charged with plunder, and because she is a pathological liar.”
Implicated in exchange for liberty?
De Lima said she would not be surprised if the administration, led by the Office of the Solicitor General, had given the orders to implicate her for alleged extortion.
“I will not be surprised if her present government handlers are now telling her what to say and who to implicate in exchange for her liberty which has already been promised her by the Solicitor General,” she said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier said there was no evidence that Napoles detained Luy at the retreat house to prevent him from exposing the scam.
“Injustice was done to Janet Lim Napoles,” Calida said.
His office filed a manifestation in lieu of rejoinder to the Court of Appeals recommending the acquittal of Napoles.
Now a senator, De Lima was arrested and detained at the PNP Custodial Center on charges that she raised campaign funds from the drug trade being conducted at the New Bilibid Priosn when she was justice secretary.
The case against her was investigated by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
De Lima is a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, going all the way back when she was human rights chief who investigated the vigilante killings in Davao City when Duterte was its mayor. /atm
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