Placing pork barrel scam “architect” Janet Lim-Napoles under its protection could put the government at risk of drawing public ire and jeopardizing the quest for justice in the plunder cases set to be filed against lawmakers and executive officials, the lawyer of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy said.
“We cannot trade one horse for another horse here. This may infuriate the people who may lose trust in the justice system,” Raji Mendoza told The Manila Times.
Mendoza, however, expressed the belief that the government is adamant to make Napoles a state witness, despite the businesswoman’s appeal to grant her immunity in exchange for her testimonies on various anomalies.
“It doesn’t seem that the government intends to make her a witness… she’s not qualified. Mahirap kasi [It’s hard] because her questioned credibility is a natural liability,” Mendoza said during a recent roundtable with The Times staff.
He added that Luy and the other witnesses will oppose Napoles’ bid to the hilt.
“As far as our rights will allow us, we will oppose it. Pushed to a corner, we will consider other options,” Mendoza said.
He explained that while Napoles denies being the mastermind of the PDAF scam, evidence shows otherwise. Mendoza said it is beyond doubt that the businesswoman is among the “principals” in the case.
“Napoles is one of the principals here. There may be many principals but she appears to be the architect and corruptor of government officials although she denies it.
Therefore, she should be the first to be incarcerated,” Mendoza pointed out.
He even called Napoles a “polluted” source who has the propensity to change her statements to save her neck.
“Paano mo paniniwalaan ang tao na yan? She [told]a different story [when she was]under oath and another [story when she was]not under oath,” the lawyer said.
Through her lawyers, the so-called pork barrel queen asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to endorse her as a witness to the Office of the Ombudsman in the cases involving PDAF and Malampaya fund disbursements.
“Please be informed that our client is willing to help the government by offering to testify … against those involved in the commission of the PDAF, Malampaya, DOTC and other scams,” the letter, addressed to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, said. DOTC is the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Once assessed, the DOJ may grant Napoles a “provisional” witness status in the same way it was given to Ruby Tuason, a respondent in the case.
If approved, Napoles will automatically be granted immunity from a plunder suit filed by the DOJ.
But Mendoza believes this “deliberate” move by Napoles’ camp is an unwelcome one since the testimonies of the other witnesses and the amount of evidence presented are enough ammunition to send the respondents to jail.
“They are trying to show mahalaga si Janet dito [Those in the Napoles camp are trying to show that Napoles is important here in nailing the scammers]. But the witnesses are against it,” he argued.
Besides Napoles, also held respondents are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. They were indicted for plunder last month.
Mendoza said they “entertain” the theory that Napoles is deliberately being “repackaged” from being a villainess to a heroine but claimed they have no evidence to support such apprehension.
“Merong agam-agam ang witnesses. The first time it was divulged they [de Lima and Napoles]had a lengthy talk. It’s possible and [we]entertain that theory,” added the lawyer.
Regarding a supposed “Benhur list” reported by a major daily (not The Manila Times) that shows a lengthy list of officials involved in the PDAF scam, Mendoza said it does not exist.
“Benhur doesn’t have a list. Probably in the course of the investigation, he has written notes to cross-examine it. [The supposed list] doesn’t mean anything… we don’t want to authenticate this time, certainly not on a piecemeal [basis]. [Maybe] meron palang hindi kasama dun [others mentioned in other lists may not be in Luy’s list],” he added. De Lima and former senator Panfilo Lacson early this week each made public their so-called Napolists.
At best, Luy’s lawyer said, his client kept his own “database” containing all the information and records of transactions when he was still working for Napoles.
Mendoza described Luy as “very meticulous” in keeping records because Napoles was a strict boss who wanted everything down to the last centavo accounted for.
“Hindi namin alam kung anong reason bakit inilabas. There is no existing list, only ledgers journals and data that [are used as]cross-references. It’s not like, here is my list,” he explained.
Mendoza also believes that at the early stage of the controversy, someone might have accessed Luy’s database before turning them over to a newspaper (not The Manila Times).
He said they have an idea of how it came to be that the newspaper was able to obtain Luy’s database but refused to discuss it in detail.