Aguirre: Napoles given an opinion, not advice
Who’s telling the truth?
The lawyer for Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, or Salvador Medialdea, the executive secretary?
Malacañang sought to distance itself from the move by Napoles to be a state witness after her lawyer, Stephen David, disclosed that he had discussed with Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II her plea to be transferred to state protective custody.
Medialdea denied that he advised David to file a motion asking the Sandiganbayan’s permission to move her to a safe house following her provisional acceptance into the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Napoles, who is detained on plunder charges, was provisionally accepted into the WPP of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Feb. 27 while her affidavit was being reviewed.
David testified at the hearing of the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division on Monday that he discussed the move to transfer her client to a WPP safe house with Medialdea and Aguirre in Malacañang.
“Why would I give legal advice to a lawyer for his client. If I were his client, I will fire him,” Medialdea said in a text message.
David said Medialdea and Aguirre had instructed him to file the motion seeking the Sandiganbayan’s permission first before Napoles could be transferred to a safe house.
Napoles had to get the permission of the antigraft court’s First, Third and Fifth Divisions first because her detention arose from plunder cases involving the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of former Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.
The First, Third and Fifth Divisions are handling the plunder cases of Revilla, Enrile and Estrada, respectively.
The PDAF was supposed to help the poor but ended up as a source of kickbacks for lawmakers and officials of agencies when the pork barrel fund was diverted to dummy aid organizations and ghost projects allegedly set up by Napoles.
Aguirre said there had indeed been a discussion between him, David and Medialdea in Malacañang on Napoles’ situation, but he backed the executive secretary, who he said, gave his “opinion,” not legal advice, to David.
Frequent Palace visitor
Aguirre said the meeting took place after David, whom he described as a frequent visitor to Malacañang, came to see Medialdea to appeal the DOJ position that the Sandiganbayan’s permission was needed before Napoles could be moved to a safe house.
David had been insisting that Napoles could already be taken out of her detention cell in Taguig City after her provisional acceptance into the WPP.
“Actually, he talked to ES (Executive Secretary) Medialdea to appeal my opinion… He would want to say that since I am under the [Office of the President] as department secretary, he could appeal my opinion to the ES, ” Aguirre said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Aguirre said that during the discussion, David asked Medialdea if he could overrule the justice secretary. “He (executive secretary) said he could not because he is of the same opinion as mine.”
President not involved
Despite David going to Malacañang to make an appeal to Medialdea, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this did not mean the Palace or President Duterte was involved in the cases of Napoles.
Roque noted that Medialdea did not grant David’s appeal. “That’s proof that Malacañang is not behind anything as far as Napoles is concerned,” he said.
In the House of Representatives, however, an opposition lawmaker said Aguirre’s admission that he met with a lawyer for Napoles discredited Malacañang’s denial of any hand in turning the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind into a state witness.
Citing the Rules of Court on criminal procedure in relation to the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Aguirre had no authority to designate Napoles as state witness in the P10-billion PDAF scam.
The ones vested with the authority to convert Napoles from an accused to a state witness are the special prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, who is prosecuting Napoles, and the Sandiganbayan where the plunder cases against her are pending, Lagman said in a press briefing.
He said Aguirre was “weaponizing Napoles against the opposition.”
Aguirre said the DOJ wanted to get Napoles as a state witness because of her offer to tell all about the pork barrel scam.
“That’s the basic reason why we are entertaining her WPP application,” the justice secretary said.
“I believe justice will be done if Janet Napoles will be allowed to speak and tell the whole truth about this,” he said.
He pointed out that during the previous administration, not all those involved in the pork barrel scam had been investigated and charged. —WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP
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