Lacson: Napoles can implicate more pork solons
Amid talk that Janet Lim-Napoles, the suspected brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, will be made a state witness, Sen. Panfilo Lacson is worried that many lawmakers may end up in jail.
Lacson noted that Napoles through her husband and son had shared with him her list of people she had allegedly transacted business with in misusing pork barrel funds.
“My worry is when Mrs. Napoles starts pointing fingers, the quorum (in Congress) may be transferred to (Camp) Crame,” he told reporters. “We may do the roll call there.”
But Lacson said only the court could decide whether Napoles, who faces charges of plunder in the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam, could be discharged as a state witness.
Until a few days ago, Napoles was serving life imprisonment after the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) found her guilty on April 14, 2015, of illegally detaining pork barrel scam state witness Benhur Luy for four months in 2013.
The Court of Appeals has nullified her conviction, saying there is no evidence she was behind Luy’s detention in a retreat house in a posh subdivision in Makati City.
Following the reversal of the RTC conviction of Napoles, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said she could be a credible key witness in the pork barrel scam cases.
Speaking to reporters, Lacson said Napoles should present evidence if she would name people who took part in the pork barrel racket.
He expressed hope that she would not be selective.
A number of lawmakers have been charged with plunder or graft for the misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), public funds meant to help the poor but were diverted to ghost projects of nongovernment organizations set up by Napoles and pocketed by lawmakers.
Napoles is facing plunder charges as coaccused in cases against former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla in relation to the pork barrel racket.
If the purpose of the government in using Napoles as a state witness is to hold accountable those who have not been charged yet, then “so be it,” Lacson said.
The senator acknowledged that some people on Napoles’ list were not indicted during the Aquino administration.
“I would just be quiet about who are those who got away or not,” he added.
Implicate Aquino allies
A lawyer for Napoles said his client was ready to implicate more people, including allies of the Aquino administration, should she be accepted as state witness.
Lawyer Stephen David said that Napoles had revealed “everything” about her involvement when the scandal over the PDAF misuse broke out in 2013.
But his client’s claims were dismissed because she implicated allies of the Aquino administration and she was considered a polluted source, according to David.
“But now there is a fair administration and they want to know what happened to the PDAF,” he said.
Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros opposed the justice department’s plan to make Napoles a state witness.
“You will make the mastermind a state witness. That is not right,” Pangilinan said in a statement. He said this was legally questionable.
Hontiveros said making Napoles a state witness was a “travesty of justice,” noting that the woman was “no hero.”
“But beyond this, I am afraid that the plan to turn Napoles into a state witness is an attempt to turn her into a political weapon to harass members of the political opposition,” she said in a statement.
Transfer to NBI
David said he wrote Secretary Aguirre on Tuesday asking him to take Napoles out of the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City since that jail was for convicted prisoners.
The lawyer said he wanted Napoles transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation jail in Manila as Aguirre had expressed interest in tapping her as a state witness.
“(Secretary Aguirre) said he [was] open to exploratory (talks). In that case we are also open to that,” David told reporters on Wednesday at the Sandiganbayan where Napoles was brought in under heavy guard to sign court orders.
While still escorted by several jail guards, Napoles was no longer in the orange prison uniform that she used to wear in previous court hearings.
The Napoles camp has asked Aguirre to transfer her to the NBI detention facility and is set to make the same request to the Sandiganbayan.
Three divisions of the graft court hearing her plunder cases have denied Napoles bail.
David said he might file a new petition for bail or enter into plea bargain with prosecutors, which would have Napoles pleading guilty to a lesser offense.