DESPITE Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s insistence that Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General (on leave) Dennis Cunanan is qualified to be a state witness, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department will study Cunanan’s testimony to determine his credibility.
This means that the pork barrel scam witness’s status as “provisional” may be affected once his affidavits, which contradicts the testimonies of Benhur Luy, is revisited.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday said de Lima had announced that a restudy is in order to find weaknesses in Cunanan’s testimonies.
“Secretary de Lima already said they will study his testimony again. Mr. Cunanan was very adamant in saying that he did not receive any kickback,” Lacierda said.
During the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon panel on the P10 billion priority development assistance fund scam, Luy belied Cunanan’s claim, saying that the TRC chief received nearly P1 million in commissions.
According to Lacierda, Cunanan is a vital witness since he gave details never before narrated by other witnesses in the case.
“What is important with the testimony of Mr. Cunanan was merong isang information siyang ibinigay dito na siya lang ang tanging nakapagbigay,” the Palace official said.
The “clash” between the testimonies of Luy and Cunanan prompted Senator Grace Poe to urge the Justice department to reconsider its decision to admit him to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Cunanan asked the Senate panel to grant him legislative immunity, the same privilege given to Luy. But Poe said Cunanan is not worthy of such a privilege because the TRC official did not tell the whole truth about his role in the pork barrel scam.
The TRC official claimed that he was able to talk to Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada as well as lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, regarding their respective pork barrel allocations coursed through the TRC.
In his testimony, Cunanan insisted that Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile had a direct hand in choosing and endorsing non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the suspected mastermind of the scam.
Santiago however maintained that even if Cunanan lied or received commissions from Napoles, he can still be made a state witness.
In her speech at the Assumption College in Makati City, Defensor said Cunanan is qualified to be a state witness.
She cited section 17, rule 119 of the Rules of Court that allows an accused to become a state witness “ if it appears that he is not the most guilty.”
The senator pointed out that the legal provision is often mistaken by laymen to mean that the state witness should be “the least guilty.”
“These two concepts are often mistaken as meaning the same thing. They mean different things,” Defensor said.
Santiago cited the 2008 case of Tarapen v. People, where the Supreme Court ruled: “The testimony of a witness maybe believed in part and disbelieved in another, depending on the corroborative evidence or the probabilities and improbabilities of the case.”
But the feisty senator made it clear that the debate on whether Cunanan should be accepted as a state witness is immaterial at this time because it is only the Sandiganbayan that can make the decision.
She said that neither the justice secretary nor the Ombudsman has the power to admit a state witness because such power is reserved for the trial court, meaning the Sandiganbayan.
Revilla, however, said perjury charges should be filed against the TRC official for lying under oath.