PORK barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles can spill “bigger beans” into the pork barrel scam controversy, her lawyer said on Thursday.
Following a closed-door meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd on Thursday, Stephen David, Napoles’ lead counsel, said his client was willing to name officials higher than lawmakers.
“Even higher pa [than lawmakers]siyempre. Kung sino’ng involved dapat maano talaga… mas marami pa [Whoever is involved should be outed…there are many more,” David said.
Napoles is facing several graft and plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the multi-billion peso "pork barrel” scam that siphoned off congressional funds to bogus organizations, which was exposed four years ago.
He said there were offers for Napoles to turn state witness, but David said these did not prosper.
"There were talks in the previous administration but it did not push through because many of their allies would be implicated,” David claimed.
He said that Napoles began talking about her possible discharge as state witness after her acquittal by the Court of Appeals on the crime of serious illegal detention.
This issue involves the alleged illegal detention of her former trusted aide and relative, Benhur Luy.
It was argued that Napoles is qualified to turn state witness because she is not the most guilty in the alleged crimes, especially for the crime of plunder. Aguirre expressed agreement with this view on Monday, May 9.
"We’re just exploring the possibility that my client will be admitted to the witness protection program. On our part, we’re requesting that she be given proper security if that proposition happens,” David said.
However, Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption Party-list said Napoles is not qualified to be enrolled as a state witness.
"In the pork barrel complaint, the allegation is that she is the mastermind. That alone disqualifies her,” Tugna said at the Serye News Forum on Wednesday.
Expand probe – Escudero
Also on Thursday, Sen. Francis Escudero said the Department of Justice should reinvestigate the multi-billion peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel controversy, but the probe should cover all those who were involved and not just Napoles’ group.
Escudero noted that the investigation on the PDAF scam that was triggered by the special audit report released by the Commission on Audit (CoA) in 2013 has not been completed because it was focused only on the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to Napoles.
The senator explained that the investigation conducted by the Department of Justice only covered P2 billion of Napoles’ NGO pork barrel transactions, not even half of the P6 billion total PDAF transactions handled by Napoles based on the CoA report.
The probe did not include the pork barrel funds that were coursed through other NGOs not connected with Napoles.
"Of the P14 billion PDAF, only P6 billion was coursed through bogus NGOs of Napoles so there is a balance of around P6 billion to P7 billion spent using cooperatives and organizations not connected to Napoles, that were not investigated by the previous administration,” said the senator during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado news forum.
The CoA in its special audit report on PDAF from 2007-2009 released in August 2013, revealed that at least 82 non-governmental organizations were found to have been used as conduits of the pork barrel funds released to lawmakers.
Of the NGOs involved, only eight organizations found to be linked with Napoles have been investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee then chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd.
Escudero was one of those who asked the blue ribbon panel to also look into the 74 other NGOs considering that the amount of funds they got was bigger than the amount that went to the Napoles NGOs.
Apart from the NGOs that were not included in the PDAF scam investigation, Escudero said the planned investigation should also include politicians and government officials who were linked by Napoles to the scam.
"Right now we will just observe the investigation to be conducted by the Justice department and if I think that the probe is not complete and that it is focused on a particular group, we will consider calling for a Senate probe on the PDAF scam,” he added.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon panel, said he was willing to reinvestigate the pork barrel scam if there would be new evidence.
"I am not against any investigation. But I would like to see something happen with this investigation,” Gordon said in a separate interview.
Napoles not qualified
Janet Lim-Napoles will not pass as a state witness, according to Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption Party-list.
"Here in the pork [scam], the allegation is that Janet is the mastermind. On that alone, she will not qualify,” Tugna, a lawyer, said during the Serye News Forum on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said that Napoles was a “minimal player” in the scam and could thus be tapped as a state witness.
But the final decision is with the courts, he said, and that appearing to be the least guilty is a requirement of being a state witness under the law.
On Wednesday, Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David told reporters that he wrote to the Department of Justice on Tuesday asking for her transfer to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detention center.
He said that his client should no longer be at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong because she is no longer a convict.
Not safe at correctional?
The law office handling her cases at the Sandiganbayan also believes that the NBI “is much safer for her and peaceful for her,” according to the letter of request written by David.
“According to her, her first year inside the correctional was bearable although there were threats against her even at the start of her confinement. At first, she did not take those seriously as her family is relying on the security of the correctional. However, because of significant circumstances affecting her cases, she was now bombarded with almost everyday death threats to the point that her personal belongings were ransacked since February 2017,” the lawyer said in the letter.
“There were several instances in which her belongings were scattered inside her cell as if looking for something and almost every night she started feeling unease for she felt someone is intently watching her. Not to mention the written threats she is receiving from unknown individuals,” he said.
“She was aware that the threats against her became serious and strong when the news circulated that she may be used as a government/state witness against some high-ranking government officials regarding the PDAF scam and that the present administration intends to revisit her cases,” he added.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA and MA. REINA LEANNE C. TOLENTINO