Santiago backs Napoles as state witness
MANILA, Philippines—The findings of an investigative team of the Office of the Ombudsman purportedly indicating Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile’s role as the mastermind of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam makes Janet Lim-Napoles qualified to become a state witness, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiiago said Thursday.
“Janet Lim-Napoles is no longer the most guilty among the respondents and is already qualified to turn state witness,” said Santiago in a statement.
An Inquirer report on Thursday quoted the team as saying in its memorandum to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that Enrile was “the unseen hand directing the compass and the tempo of the whole orchestra” that allegedly defrauded the government of billions of pesos under the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) over the past decade through dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
“If the Sandigan discharges Napoles as a state witness, this means that in effect she has been acquitted. But she has to comply with the condition that she must specify every single detail of the scam hatched by the mastermind and carried out by her fake NGOs,” Santiago said.
Santiago said “that if the Sandigan as a trial court discharges Napoles, even if Enrile appeals the order to the Court of Appeals, the latter will not interfere unless Enrile can show grave abuse of discretion.”
“The philosophy behind the state witness procedure is to give immunity to one of the conspirators in order that not all shall escape, particularly the mastermind,” Santiago said.
“Where a crime is contrived in secret, the discharge of one of the conspirators is essential so that she can testify against the other conspirators,” she said, citing a legal principle.
Napoles’ testimony is “absolutely necessary because she alone has knowledge of the entire crime, and her testimony is not simply corroborative,” she said.
The businesswoman will be required to file a sworn statement as a proposed state witness when she asks the Sandiganbayan to be discharged as a state witness, said Santiago, who has been at loggerheads with Enrile.
“Because she has to file a sworn statement in court, I would strongly urge that Napoles should file a petition in court to perpetuate her testimony. She must file such a petition, because her life is in danger as a potential state witness,” Santiago said.
The petition must give the facts thay Napoles desires to establish by her proposed testimony, and the reasons for desiring to perpetuate it, the senator said, following her suggestion to Napoles when the businesswoman appeared during a hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on Nov. 7.
Santiago said Napoles would have to name Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who have been named in a plunder complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman, so that their lawyers could be present during her deposition.
“The Sandigan will grant the petition for perpetuation of testimony to prevent a failure of justice. The lawyers of both the petitioners and the adverse parties, together with the clerk of court, will then go to Napoles and either ask verbal questions or present her with written questions which she must then answer at that place. A court stenographer will be present to take down her testimony,” she said.
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