SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday gave in to the wishes of several of his colleagues to summon Janet Lim Napoles to a Blue Ribbon committee hearing investigating anomalous releases of the pork barrel.
In a privilege speech, Drilon said he signed the subpoena for Napoles, the alleged brains in the pork barrel scheme, to appear before the blue ribbon investigation.
He made the announcement minutes before senators were to hold a caucus called specifically to discuss the issue.
Drilon was under fire from the public and some senators for refusing to sign the subpoena for Napoles.
He admitted that he gave in because his decision not to summon Napoles injured the image of the Senate “before a public hungry to see Napoles being grilled in the Senate halls.”
Drilon said he deferred the signing of the subpoena because it was at that time the more prudent and responsible action to take to ensure an orderly administration of justice.
He said his decision was misconstrued as an effort to hide the truth, giving his critics the excuse to vilify him.
“As the head of this institution, I must lead in restoring the confidence of our people in the Senate. All my life, I have always adhered to the rule of law. All my life, it has always been about justice,” Drilon said.
In signing the subpoena, Drilon said the priority of the Senate investigation is to prosecute those involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and hold them accountable.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Blue Ribbon chairman, said Napoles would have to ask the Makati Regional Trial Court to allow her to appear before the Senate. Napoles is being detained in Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, on charges of serious illegal detention.
Guingona said that the Makati court has jurisdiction over Napoles.
He added that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will have to provide security for Napoles when she is brought to the Senate.
Napoles was accused of illegally detaining her cousin and former employee Benhur Luy. Luy narrated how Napoles gained access to billions of pork barrel funds which were released by the Budget department to her fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
She is also facing plunder complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon Revilla and some members of the House of Representatives.
The three senators were alleged to have released part of their PDAF to fund the projects of the NGOs controlled by Napoles.
Enrile, Estrada and Revilla inhibited themselves from the Blue Ribbon hearing, but Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano is insisting that they should attend the investigation and answer the allegations against them.
But Estrada in a separate interview said Cayetano should not question his decision and instead focus on his own issues.
“We have our own decisions to make. I don’t want him (Cayetano) dictating in my decision,” Estrada said.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. lauded Drilon for signing the summons for Napoles.
“It is a good idea. We might as well have Janet Napoles [testify]there, instead of [dealing with]these people who are speculating and virtually claiming to be her spokespersons and saying all sorts of things. Let’s hear Napoles,” Belmonte said.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales earlier warned the Senate against letting Napoles testify, saying it might unnecessarily expose the case and the testimonies against Napoles and eventually jeopardize the prosecution of her court case.
“She should name names, especially that she is among the respondents in the plunder charges filed before the Office of the Ombudsman. In the past, the move [of witnesses attending Senate inquiries and presenting evidence]has proven to be beneficial [for the prosecution]. I hope the hearing will be productive,” Belmonte told reporters.
He allayed the Ombudsman’s fear that forcing Napoles to testify at the Senate could compromise the plunder complaint against the businesswoman and several lawmakers.
“Having her in the Senate would only affect the media since they won’t have anything explosive to report anymore when the trial comes. As for the course of justice, only the evidence presented and testimonies made there will count. This Senate probe, theoretically, is just in aid of legislation. It does not seek to nail anybody to the cross,” Belmonte said.