Lagman: Protection for Napoles ‘premature,’ ‘illegal’
The temporary admission of pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP) was “premature” and “illegal,” an opposition lawmaker said on Sunday.
In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990 AM, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said Napoles’ admission into the WPP even if “provisional,” was “utterly premature because of the absence of a prior mandatory determination that she is qualified to be discharged from her pending plunder cases to become a state witness.”
Lagman said this procedure is required by Section 10 of Republic Act 6981 in relation to Section 17 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court on criminal procedure.
“Ang sabi ni Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II at Spokesperson Harry Roque yung affidavit daw ni Napoles sa pag-apply sa WPP ay sinusuri pa. Kung ito’y sinusuri pa eh bakit naman noon pang February 27, 2018, binigyan na sya ng protective custody under the WPP? Kaya it’s completely premature and illegal,” the lawmaker said during the interview.
Lagman cited Sec. 10 of RA 6981 which provides that “any person who has participated in the commission of a crime” in order to become a state witness for admission into the WPP must “not appear to be the most guilty”.
“Since Napoles is accused before the Sandiganbayan as the mastermind of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, she appears to be the most guilty, disqualifying her from becoming a state witness,” Lagman explained in a separate statement.
Lagman said Sec. 17 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court specifically provides that “upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the State” when the court is satisfied that the said accused “does not appear to be the most guilty”, among other prerequisites.
Under the Rule, he said the Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, who is prosecuting Napoles, would preliminarily determine that Napoles is qualified to be a government witness, and it is the Sandiganbayan where her plunder cases are pending which has the jurisdiction to grant her discharge as a state witness.
In either case, he said Aguirre or the Director of the WPP has no role or authority.
“From being the principal accused in the ‘mother of all scams,’ Napoles is on the verge of staging a ‘great escape’ with the consent of the Department of Justice (DOJ),” he added.
Aguirre has clarified that even if Napoles would be admitted into the WPP, her plunder charges would not be lowered. He also appealed to critics to let the process take its course first.
But Lagman maintained his position and said: “Hindi ko sinasabi na sya ay magbitiw, ang sinasabi ko lang may malaking problema ang DOJ sa ilalim ni Secretary Aguirre. Ang problemang ito kailangang lutasin ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte.”
“Huwag na syang maghugas ng kamay kapares ni Pontio Pilato, dapat harapin nya ang problema at tignan nya yung dinismiss na kaso laban sa suspected drug lords eh nasa kapangyarihan nya ireject yung recommendation ‘di ba. Hindi na kailangan gumawa pa ng bagong panel of investigators,” he said.
“Tungkol naman kay Napoles, umatras na sya. Unang-una masyadong pinagbibigyan ang mastermind ng isa pinaka malaking scams sa Pilipinas,” he added.
According to the rules, a WPP applicant has to execute an affidavit which will then be assessed by the DOJ. The DOJ could either reject the provisional protection or convert it into full coverage after its evaluation.
Benefits of being under the WPP include a safe house, security, immunity from prosecution, allowances, and medical services, among others.
While the application is being processed, the DOJ could place the applicant under provisional admission, whose benefits may include additional security and medical assistance.
Napoles was temporarily granted protection starting Feb. 27, 2018, after she executed an affidavit which is now undergoing assessment. /cbb
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