Lawyers’ ‘catfight’ mars Napoles’ bail hearing
Video by Ma. Rhona Ysabel Daoang
A heated argument between lawyers marred the bail hearing of accused Janet Lim-Napoles on Friday, with one justice fanning the flame by warning principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy that he could be charged for perjury for his inaccurate affidavit over the alleged pork barrel scam.
This is the latest of the conflicts in the court hearings over Napoles’ alleged involvement in the scam as testified by Luy, her finance officer who blew the lid on the alleged corruption scandal of pilfering lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to ghost projects for kickbacks.
During Napoles’ bail hearing from plunder before the antigraft court’s third division, Associate Justice Samuel Martires warned the prosecutor to guard their witness from perjuring himself.
It started when Napoles’ lawyer Lanee David in his cross examination asked Luy to confirm his August 2013 affidavit that a Napoles foundation Masaganing Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation (Mamfi) was created between 2004 and 2008.
In the witness stand, Luy said Mamfi was created in 2003, not 2004.
Luy’s admission of an error in his sworn affidavit resulted in a catfight between the two female lawyers representing the rival parties, with Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang intervening to douse the conflict.
Prosecutor Lalaine Benitez objected to David’s questioning for trying to mislead the witness to verify an admission in his affidavit that he helped in creating the bogus foundations.
David was referring to a portion of Luy’s August 2013 affidavit that said: “Upon the instruction of Mrs. Napoles, we (Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas) together with other employees of JLN, created and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission several foundations during the period between 2004-2008.”
“That is misleading. She is changing the statement of the witness in the direct examination,” prosecutor Benitez said.
Martires interrupted the prosecutor and scored her for not letting the witness talk and acting as if she were the witness.
While the prosecutor was reading the portion of the affidavit, David interrupted her before she read the portion of Luy helping in the NGO creation and said: “Read on, read on.”
Luy then clarified to the court that Mamfi, one of the NGOs cited in the affidavit, was created in 2003, or outside the 2004-2008 period.
Martires remarked: “Do you know that you could be charged for perjury because that is a signed affidavit and now you’re changing it?”
Napoles, who was present for her hearing, guffawed and clapped her hands. Luy looked visibly worried, his eyebrows furrowed.
“I would like to advise your witness to be careful with respect to affidavit because he might be charged for perjury,” Martires told the prosecuting panel.
“I’m sure Atty. Stephen David will not bat an eyelash,” he added, referring to Napoles’ lead counsel.
Lanee David took off from the justice’s remarks, asking Luy if he indeed issued an inaccurate sworn affidavit.
“So your statement in your Aug. 5, 2013, affidavit that one of the foundations created between 2004 and 2008 is Mamfi is actually false?” David asked the witness.
“Your Honors, that calls for a conclusion!” Benitez interjected, to which Justice Martires laughed.
“The court has taken note of that. Can you proceed to the next question?” a visibly irked Tang said.
After the hearing, lawyer Stephen David noted that even the justices doubted Luy’s credibility.
“Winarningan na nga siya ni Justice Martires at pinapa-file nga ako ng perjury … Sa tingin mo ba pinaniniwalaan siya ng tatlong justices?” he said.
Napoles’ lawyer added he was still biding his time if he would file perjury raps against Luy.
“Pag hindi na sensational ang case, makikita na ng tao kung sino talaga si Benhur. The meantime, ang trabaho namin ay ipakita ang other side ni Benhur,” he said.
Napoles is serving life sentence after a court convicted her of illegally detaining Luy over suspicions that he is starting his own scam.
The hearings on the pork barrel scam have resulted in the detention for plunder of Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, as well as former representatives Rizalina Seachon Lanete and Edgar Valdez. RC
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