Janet Lim-Napoles wants to escape criminal prosecution by becoming a state witness.
The jailed businesswoman has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) that she be accepted into the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she received the request on Tuesday. In her letter, Napoles offered to testify against lawmakers and officials who reportedly benefited from the pork barrel scam in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution.
“She has manifested her intention to apply for immunity,” de Lima told reporters.
The Justice chief, however, noted that Napoles’ request will be evaluated by the DOJ, although it will not be made a priority.
De Lima said she will submit the letter to the Office of the Ombudsman, which has accepted the application for immunity from criminal suits of Ruby Tuason, one of the “agents” of Napoles.
The DOJ chief added that the Ombudsman will rule on the issue since it will handle the prosecution of the cases in the Sandiganbayan.
“I can make my own determination [but]recommendatory only, or refrain from doing that and instead just refer the matter to the Ombudsman,” she said.
“That could only be secondary to the vetting or the evaluation of her allegations in her initial affidavit and then in the longer, complete affidavit that we’re waiting for. It’s only after vetting that we will able to know if she’s qualified [to become state witness]or not,” de Lima added.
House leaders, however, believe that Napoles is not qualified to be a state witness.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list and Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list said Napoles can testify but should not be granted immunity.
“I am against granting her immunity. She was the mastermind and the one who gained the most,” Belmonte said.
“The Justice department and the Office of the Ombudsman should be more circumspect. If they allow Napoles to be a state witness, that is the highest mockery of justice. Legally, there is enough documentary and testimonial evidence to secure conviction. Napoles cannot be granted immunity,” Tugna, said in an interview.
“Napoles should testify without precondition or immunity. In fact, she should ask for forgiveness from the Filipino people for the serious damage she brought to the country because of the PDAF scam,” Colmenares noted.
But Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list said the decision on Napoles’ request will depend on the value of her affidavit.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya denied allotting his pork barrel to fake groups.
“Not a centavo from my PDAF from 1995 to 2004 and from 2007 to present has been earmarked to either the Department of Transportation and Communications or Napoles,” Padilla said.
With Llanesca T. Panti