Justice Seretary Leila de Lima did not seem to know the implications of what she was getting into when she talked businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles into ratting on senators and other personalities implicated in the pork barrel scam, a justice said in a comment on the case.
For one, according to the justice who requested anonymity, de Lima should have known that it is not the Department of Justice (DOJ) but the Sandiganbayan that determines who can be a state witness, a role that she wanted Napoles to play.
By seeking to make Napoles a state witness, the DOJ secretary was effectively working for the businesswoman’s acquittal under the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the justice said.
Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam involving the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of legislators, told the Justice chief in a meeting on Monday that she would testify against the pork scam suspects in exchange for government protection.
“Naiintindihan ba ni Leila pinapasok niya? O hindi niya alam dahil election lawyer lang siya dati [Does Leila know what she is getting into? Or she has no idea about it at all because she used to be an election lawyer]? Only the Sandiganbayan can decide whether or not an accused can be considered as state witness,” the source said.
Rule 119, Section 17, of the Rules on Criminal Procedure states:
“Discharge of accused to be state witness. – When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, 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, after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that: (a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
(b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused;
(c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
(d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and
(e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
“Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence,” Rule 119 also states.
The justice said it is “very clear that Mrs. Napoles is equally guilty [as]the legislators involved in the pork barrel scam. And I cannot understand why Leila is courting her. In effect, de Lima is betraying the whistleblowers.”
In negotiating with Napoles, the justice told The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, de Lima also betrayed the government’s claim that its case without Napoles’ testimony is strong.
He said under the Revised Penal Code, a principal by direct participation can never be considered as a state witness.
“The principal by indispensable cooperation can apply as a state witness, but not a principal by direct participation like Napoles,” the source added.
De Lima, however, said she talked with Napoles only in order to search for the truth and nothing is final yet in making the alleged scam mastermind as state witness.
An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also questioned the credibility of Napoles as a state witness.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace of the CBCP, also on Wednesday said Napoles “can tell all even without [her]being a state witness [because she]is already under the protection of the state.”
If the government considered Napoles as a state witness, Pabillo added, she would be free from all the charges that had been filed against her and the money that she had stolen from the people would just be wasted.
If the scam “brains” turned state witness, the bishop said, she would be selective and only pin down the three high-profile senators linked to the scandal, namely Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also assailed as “highly unacceptable, shameless, and immoral” what it described as a “looming political compromise” by the Aquino administration with Napoles.
“In a vain attempt to pin down its political opponents, the Aquino administration has resorted to a highly unacceptable and immoral political compromise. This shameless political compromise exposes Aquino as the real handler of the Pork Barrel Queen,” Rafael Mariano, the group’s chairman, said.
Mariano also slammed de Lima.
“De Lima should not even think of making Napoles as a state witness. It is an insult to millions of farmers robbed by Napoles and her handlers in government with billions of public funds intended for agriculture,” Mariano said.
With Robertzon F. Ramirez and Neil Alcober