Senate immunity offer may make Napoles talk | Inquirer News

Senate immunity offer may make Napoles talk

An offer of immunity from the Senate blue ribbon committee to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles might get her to squeal on the lawmakers and government officials who benefited from her multibillion-peso scheme, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said on Wednesday.

Osmeña, vice chair of the committee, said the panel had the authority to grant her immunity.

“We have done that in the past. [In] the helicopter scam, we gave immunity to the person who bought helicopters for Mike Arroyo [husband of the former President] and sold helicopters for Mike Arroyo,” Osmeña told reporters on Wednesday.


He said he wanted Napoles to “identify all the congressman and senators whom she has been bribing.”


The senator, however, believed Napoles would just repeatedly invoke her right against self-incrimination when she faces the blue ribbon panel on Nov. 7.

“The whole nation is dying to hear Napoles and they are dying to hear Napoles because they want to hear the truth…. Will that happen? I don’t think so. Unless we offer her to become state witness—which means immunity from prosecution—she’s not going to say anything,” Osmeña said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a separate interview, told reporters that the Senate committee could grant immunity only in such a way that Napoles’ testimony at the hearing may not be used against her.

“That’s in the law, in the Witness Protection Program,” Drilon said when asked about the possibility of Napoles being given immunity.

“That only means that the testimony that she will give may not be used against her. But that doesn’t mean she’s already absolved because there are many other pieces of evidence that may be presented,” Drilon added.

Drilon said the grant of immunity may come from the committee and could be made anytime.


“The committee will decide that. Immunity in so far as her statements made in the Senate but not immunity from prosecution,” Drilon said.

Section 4 of the Republic Act No. 6981, or the Witness Protection Act, provides that “in case of legislative investigations in aid of legislation, a witness, with his express consent, may be admitted into the program upon the recommendation of the legislative committee where his testimony is needed when in its judgment there is pressing necessity.”

It further provides that “such recommendation is approved by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be.”

Sen. Francis Escudero, author of the resolution that sought an inquiry into the pork barrel scam, said he wasn’t in favor of giving Napoles immunity.

“It’s unlikely that she’s the least guilty and then maybe all those involved here might be given immunity, and only the second stringers will remain [among the accused],” Escudero told reporters.

Since a case against Napoles has already been filed, any immunity granted to her should have the approval of the court, he said.

Charged with plunder

Napoles, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, and 34 others have been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion pork scam perpetrated in 10 years.

Principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy testified in the blue ribbon committee last month that a lawmaker pocketed 50 percent of the supposed project funded by his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a pork barrel.

Luy, a relative of Napoles and her former employee, said the businesswoman got 40 percent and government conduits 10 percent.

In the plunder complaint, the National Bureau of Investigation said Revilla got P224.5 million in kickbacks; Estrada, P183.8 million; and Enrile, P172.8 million.

Napoles is detained in a police facility in Sat. Rosa, Laguna, on a serious illegal detention charge filed against her by Luy.

An option

Asked if granting Napoles immunity was an option, Osmeña said it was always an option if in the judgment of the committee, or later on, in the judgment of the prosecution and the court, “that she is not the most guilty.”

Despite Napoles being the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Osmeña indicated that a government official who pocketed kickbacks would have the heavier responsibility because he took an oath to serve the Filipino people.

“If I am accused, for me, I have the heavier responsibility to prove my innocence because I am supposed to be above suspicion. I am not supposed to be fooling around,” Osmeña said.

“So if you’re saying, one guy stole P50 million and then a governor stole P10 million, to me, I’ll go after the governor,” the senator added.

While the Senate is thinking how Napoles can be compelled to tell all when she appears in the blue ribbon committee, several Catholic bishops are urging her to “expose the truth” for the sake of the common good.

Former Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez on Wednesday said Napoles must attend the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing and reveal everything she knew about the misuse of the PDAF.

“I urge her [to attend and talk] so that she can help bring to light the truth for the good of the country. She may be a heroine,” Iñiguez told reporters.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes also hoped that Napoles would provide the senators a complete testimony.

“She is already subpoenaed [so she must show up] and her testimony will ferret out the truth,” said Bastes in a text message.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the businesswoman should attend the hearing and expose her side of the truth “in order that justice may be served for the sake of the common good.”

Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros also urged Napoles to disclose what she knew about the scam and reveal the names of those in power who dipped their hands in the pork barrel.

“Let her face the music and I hope she tells the truth. Let her name names because the Filipino people want to know where their taxes went,” said Oliveros.

A day after Drilon signed the subpoena for Napoles’ testimony, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III asked the committee how it could make Napoles tell the truth and how she could be cited for contempt if she lied when she was already in detention.


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Senate may grant immunity to Napoles – Osmeña

TAGS: Immunity, Senate

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