The Ombudsman has denied the request of Janet Lim-Napoles for immunity from prosecution in connection with the Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) scam.
In a letter in response to Napoles’ request, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Napoles “appears to be among the most guilty of all respondents,” and therefore does not qualify as a state witness.
Morales also rejected similar requests from Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Roman Cacal and Director General Dennis Cunanan of Technology and Resource Center, a government owned and controlled corporation. The three were also named respondents in the plunder case arising from misuse of PDAF funds.
“There is no absolute necessity for their respective testimonies, and there are other direct evidence available, both testimonial and documentary, for the proper prosecution of the offenses committed,” the Joint Order of the Ombudsman dated June 4 read.
The Ombudsman has earlier approved the requests of Ruby Tuason, Benhur Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones for immunity from prosecution.
Tuason gained immunity after returning P40 million to the government, which she claims was the equivalent of the amount she derived from the PDAF scam.
Earlier on Thursday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd turned the tables on Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada who had raised a fuss over a supposed letter sent by Napoles to the President last year.
The President told reporters that in the letter, dated April 17, 2013, Napoles claimed that retired Gen. Rodolfo Diaz and Levito Baligod, former lawyer of Luy, tried to exact P38 million from her in exchange for dropping the illegal detention charges Luy filed.
Aquino said he was not sure if the Diaz mentioned in the letter was the military general who served as former President Joseph Estrada’s Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander.
“Basically she [Napoles] said she was innocent. That she was an honest to goodness businesswoman for the past 29 years. The NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] was oppressing them. That’s the gist [of the letter],” the President said.
“In the fourth paragraph, maybe we should ask Senator Jinggoy because what it said was and I’ll just quote from the letter: ‘Thereafter, Atty. Levito Baligod, lawyer of the Luy family, together with the retired General Rodolfo Diaz demanded the amount of 38-million pesos from through our lawyer, Atty. Freddie Villamor, in exchange for the dropping of said false charges and bad media publicity’,” Aquino said.
On Wednesday Estrada blocked the confirmation of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima at the Commission on Appointments, citing the supposed Napoles letter.
Aquino said it should be Estrada who must “know more” about the letter.
“I don’t know if it is the same General Diaz who was PSG commander during the time of President Erap. So, maybe Senator Jinggoy has more to say. But the bottom line, I passed the letter to Secretary Leila [De Lima] since she was in charge of the investigations,” he said.
He described the two-page letter as “self-serving” because it contained everything about Napoles’ supposedly legitimate businesses “except their business in Indonesia allegedly.”
The President made it clear he would not strike any deal with Napoles, who had promised to return P2 billion in PDAF kickbacks.
Plunder charges have been filed by the Ombudsman against Estrada and fellow Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr.
The President pointed to “inconsistencies” in Napoles’ statements and said the government will recover the money she looted “in one way or another.”
“I know she was saying that she no money at all yet now her lawyers are saying she can return P2 billion. We will recover those one way or another based on the judicial process to know that truth and punish those responsible,” Aquino added.
The President said he was not inclined to believe Napoles’ “conflicting stories” and would rather take care of more important things.
Also on Thursday, Napoles denied she offered to return P2 billion in exchange for immunity.
In earlier interviews, Stephen David, Napoles’ lead counsel, said they are willing to give back 10 percent of what Napoles allegedly pocketed.
But Bruce Rivera, another Napoles lawyer, issued a disclaimer through a text message to reporters Wednesday midnight.
“There was never a statement that JLN offered to return 2 billion pesos,” Rivera said.
According to him, what was being emphasized was the fact that they made a “complaint” on the fact that what was charged of his client’s kickback was wrong.
“JLN (Napoles’s initials) only got less than 2 billion and not 10 billion of the pork scam,” This, according to him is because Napoles only gets 10 percent commissions from the transactions.
“Clearly, Attorney Stephen David was taken out of context and misreported,” he added.
With Ruffie Cruz