Duterte lets Aguirre decide Napoles’ fate
President Duterte continues to distance himself from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) provisional admission of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles into the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Speaking before supporters in Pasay City on Wednesday evening, Mr. Duterte said he was leaving the matter to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
He also said he wondered why Aguirre got involved in the Napoles case, although he said he did not want to meddle in the work of Cabinet members, many of whom were his “brightest” former classmates.
“That’s his strategy,” Mr. Duterte said, referring to Aguirre’s decision to provisionally admit Napoles to the WPP despite the five counts of plunder and several graft charges filed against her in six divisions of the Sandiganbayan.
Aguirre himself said on Wednesday that the DOJ was still studying the possibility of giving Napoles full witness protection, but he doubted whether she could still plea bargain.
“I think it might be too late for that,” Aguirre said in a text message to reporters. “But as I have said, she could qualify as state witness.”
“She need not apply for plea bargain because if she becomes a state witness, she will not be charged in the new cases to be filed,” he said.
The DOJ approved Napoles’ application for provisional witness protection on Feb. 27 ahead of a supposed tell-all testimony regarding the pork barrel racket.
On March 19, Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, asked the Sandiganbayan to have her transferred to a safe house because she was receiving death threats.
But Aguirre did not say whether he had discussed the matter with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who had said she would block any attempt to make Napoles a state witness since the businesswoman was allegedly one of the principal benefactors in the scam.
Under the law, only the Ombudsman can decide whether Napoles can be a state witness, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
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