LEGAZPI CITY, Albay: Janet Lim Napoles is not qualified to become state witness because she appears to be the most guilty in the pork barrel scam, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said on Monday.
The President, who was in Legazpi City for the opening of a World Tourism Organization summit, told reporters that under Section 17, Rule 190, of the Rules of Court, the witness applying must not be the most guilty, and Napoles does not meet that requirement.
“Because she is at the center of it all, she is the common connection of all, I think it’s hard to say at this point, from what I understand, how are we going to say she is ‘not the most guilty’ if she is at the center of it all?,” he said.
Aquino hinted that some people may be trying to muddle up the issue surrounding supposed lists of lawmakers and government officials who profited from the scam by making it appear that everyone is guilty.
“What they want is for us to pursue every lead. But if we follow that, my time will be up, the two years and one month I have left. We will not allow that,” he said.
The President’s term ends in June 2016.
He said the Department of Justice is also checking Napoles’ statements for veracity but admitted that the discrepancies in the Napoles lists are questionable.
“Are we expecting at the present state that everything coming from her is true?” Aquino asked.
If Napoles tells the truth “then it will help. If she isn’t telling the truth, it will help too because you need to support your lies with truth,” he said.
Napoles is detained at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, on plunder charges related to the pork barrel scandal.
In a separate case, she is accused of detaining scam whistleblower Benhur Luy against his will inside her condominium unit in Taguig City in Metro Manila.
Even as the President raised the possibility of the government turning down Napoles as a state witness, her lawyer, Bruce Rivera, told reporters on Monday that his client has come up with the names of three more senators involved in the questionable disbursement of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Rivera said the names surfaced after Napoles went through her transaction records again.
“At least three more senators will be included in the list. I don’t want to say if they are incumbent or not,” Rivera said in a television interview.
He added that the transactions between the senators and Napoles happened back in 2000, and the three senators’ names could have slipped her mind.
“It was a very long list of transactions and you tend to forget. She does not have a photographic memory that you know every nook and cranny,” Rivera said.
Napoles has submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima a list of 11 former and sitting senators and 70 congressmen whom she said benefited from the pork scam.
The senators are Ramon Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Vicente Sotto 3rd, Loren Legarda, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Manuel Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and the late Robert Barbers.
Only Enrile, Estrada and Revilla have been charged with plunder by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the scam.
Rivera apologized to Sen. Juan Victor “JV” Ejercito, whose name was on the list submitted to de Lima, saying Ejercito’s inclusion was a mistake made by the encoder.
Napoles had asked the Court of Appeals to grant her petition for bail, but the court turned her down.
She went to the appellate court after the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) rejected her earlier plea for bail.
Makati RTC Judge Elmo Alameda said Napoles did not raise any new arguments to change his earlier ruling denying her bail.
Serious illegal detention is a non-bailable offense.
The Court of Appeals resolution, dated May 14, was penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam and concurred in by Associate Justices Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla and Edwin Sorongon.
With Ritchie A. Horario And Jomar Canlas