THE camp of jailed businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles on Thursday said that Congress has no authority to grant immunity so that any offer of protection from suit in exchange for her testimony at the Senate should be rejected.
According to lawyer Lorna Kapunan, Napoles’ counsel, an offer of immunity from lawsuit can only come from a court and not from a legislative body like the Senate.
The Senate, she added, cannot even recommend immunity from criminal prosecution for a witness in its investigations in aid of legislation, citing the principle of separation of power among co-equal branches.
“Immunity from plunder charges can only be given by a court based on appreciation of evidence. Only the Sandiganbayan can give immunity from plunder,” Kapunan said.
Napoles and 37 others were slapped with plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly engineering a scam to funnel pork barrel funds of some lawmakers to her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).
Kapunan issued the statement after Sen. Sergio Osmeña 3rd on Wednesday raised the possibility of offering immunity from suit to Napoles in order to encourage her to spill the beans on the scam.
Osmeña proposed the granting of immunity to Napoles after Kapunan hinted that the businesswoman will invoke her right against self-incrimination when she appears before the Senate next month.
But Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona 3rd, the chairman of the Senate Ribbon Committee, said Napoles could not invoke such right for the entire duration of her testimony.
Meanwhile, Kapunan said they will let doctors decide if her client is physically fit to appear at the Blue Ribbon hearing on November 7 after she was rushed to hospital in Laguna on Thursday morning.
Napoles, who is detained at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, was rushed to the Southern Luzon Hospital at 1:20 a.m. after she experienced nausea and vomiting.
Kapunan claimed that Napoles’ condition has been declining since her facility was “not a normal living condition.”
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said Napoles was taken back to her detention facility at 3:30 a.m.
Kapunan likewise denied insinuations that Napoles’ hospitalization could be a tactic to escape the Senate investigation.
“I don’t think it’s fair, to say the least, if we just wanted hospital arrest for her, we could have asked for it,” she added.
The alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind is under detention for her separate serious illegal detention case filed by Benjur Luy, her cousin and former employee.
The prosecution panel is set to present Luy when the hearing on the bail petition of Napoles resumes on Friday at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150.
Napoles lawyers are expected to confront Luy with his letter and diary to prove that he was not illegally detained by his cousin and his former boss.
“She [Napoles] was brought to the hospital by her security escorts because of pain, nausea and continuous vomiting. The medical evacuation was cleared by her attending physician,” Sindac told reporters in a chance interview in Camp Crame.
The PNP official said that initial findings by the hospital said that Napoles’s condition was due to stones in the ureter.
“After tests and treatment, Napoles’ situation stabilized and she was released from the hospital and was immediately returned to her detention facility in Fort Sto. Domingo,” Sindac said.
Meanwhile, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz admitted on Thursday that he first thought that Napoles was just “acting” about her medical condition.
“I don’t think it was a drama, but at first I thought it was just like other people thought,” Cruz said.
The prelate believes that Napoles may have medical issues, considering her weight, age and blood pressure.
Cruz, who has been criticizing Napoles since the pork barrel anomaly came out, said that she deserves a second chance to defend herself.
Likewise, the prelate believes that Napoles would not reveal anything explosive during the
Senate hearing because it might further endanger her.
“Impossible, pagkat pag sinabi niya ang lahat baka lalong malagay sa panganib ang buhay niya pagkat may mga taong hindi nagbibiro [because if she tells all it might put her in serious danger],” he said.
Cruz said that the only way Napoles can be freed from all her sins is “to pray a lot” and ask for repentance.
“She [Napoles] needs more prayer so that she will be enlightened of what to do and how she is going to do those things,” he said.
With a report from Robertzon Ramirez