THE Senate panel investigating the P10 billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam will conduct its hearing in public and any request from the camp of Janet Lim Napoles for an executive session will be rejected, according to Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd Guingona, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, pointed out that Napoles was summoned by the panel for her to testify openly under oath on what she knows about the anomaly involving the so-called “pork barrel” funds of lawmakers.
“On November 7, Mrs. Napoles will be given the opportunity to come clean and speak the truth. The Filipino people will be watching [and]we will be ready,” Guingona said.
The lawmaker said that while there is a strong possibility that Napoles will request an executive session during the hearing, he will not allow it. An executive session is held behind closed doors. All matters discussed during the executive session are covered by secrecy but the Senate, by a two-thirds vote of all its members, can lift the ban.
“They can request for an executive session but I will not agree to that. Because that’s precisely the point, to find out the truth and what really took place,” Guingona explained.
The Makati City court handling the serious illegal detention case against Napoles granted the request of the Senate to allow the businesswoman to attend the PDAF scam investigation by the panel.
Guingona lauded the decision of the court in upholding the co-equal and coordinating powers of the Legislature and the Judiciary in their pursuit of the truth.
“With the court’s order for Napoles to appear before the senate blue ribbon committee, we are now much closer to completing the whole story on the abuses done with the PDAF,” he said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday said she is against granting Napoles any form of immunity.
De Lima said such privilege should only be decided by the Ombudsman which is presently reviewing the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) plunder complaint against Napoles and several incumbent and former lawmakers.
“[I hope] the Senate or the [Guingona] committee is not minded to grant any form of immunity at this point to Mrs. Napoles,” De Lima said.
Meanwhile, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. still have no plans of showing up during the hearing, saying they have decided to totally inhibit themselves from the proceedings.
The three senators are currently facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged misuse of their PDAF allocations from 2007 to 2009.
When sought for his comment on Nepoles’ scheduled appearance, Enrile said that the businesswoman should not be allowed by her lawyer to testify because of the pending cases before the Ombudsman and a local court.
“If I were her lawyer, I will not allow her to testify. That is her constitutional right,” Enrile said.
Guingona however gave assurances that the investigation will not turn into a “circus.”
Napoles will be escorted by heavily-armed policemen to and from the Senate on November 7, the date of the hearing. She is being detained at Fort Sto. Domingo, in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for the serious illegal detention case filed by pork barrel scam informant Benjur Luy.
The businesswoman allegedly masterminded the channeling of billions of pesos worth of pork barrel funds of some lawmakers to her bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Right to silence
Napoles’ lawyer Lorna Kapunan maintained that her client will invoke her constitutional right against self incrimination during the Senate probe.
De Lima said this could mean that Napoles would say nothing at all.
“Malabo yan kasi sinabi na ng kanyang abugada na hindi niya papayagan na ma-incriminate si Mrs Napoles sa hearing na ‘yan. Baka wala tayo masyado maaasahan in terms of sasabihin niya,” De Lima said.
The Justice chief suggested that the chiefs of staff and other personnel of lawmakers charged should also be invited.
“Since pinatawag na si Mrs Napoles, ibig sabihin, yung Senate is bent on finding out more about the scam,” De Lima noted.
“Mas maganda tawagin na rin yung iba, yung chiefs of staff ng lawmakers… sila Atty Gigi Reyes, si Atty [Richard] Cambe, Ruby Tuason, Pauline Labayen… they were also charged . . . Nasaan ba sila Gigi Reyes and Ruby Tuason?” she asked.