WITH the way Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima has been quarterbacking the supposed tell-all testimony of alleged pork barrel scam ringleader, Janet Lim-Napoles, many folks are dismayed that the DOJ chief seems to be acting more like a lawyer of Napoles than the impartial investigator she’s supposed to be.
By having an abnormal interest and intimate involvement in the crafting of Napoles’ affidavit, De Lima appears to have assumed the role of defense counsel – a widespread sentiment further fortified by her recent public pronouncements.
Last week, a day after the Senate blue ribbon committee issued a subpoena for the turn over of the list to the panel, De Lima pleaded that she needed more time before Napoles’ statement could be completed due to the “sheer volume” of documents. “I think the [blue ribbon]committee would understand we need additional time, little time, just few more days, probably one week at most to be able to submit the list and the affidavit,” de Lima said.
But as Senator Chiz Escudero correctly pointed out, it is not the DOJ but Napoles’ lawyers who ought to submit the list and affidavit of the suspected “pork” mastermind to the Senate. “It should be the [Napoles] lawyers’ draft,” he said. A practicing lawyer before his foray into politics, Escudero asked: “Why is [De Lima]…going to the vetting of the affidavit..?” Good question.
According to De Lima, she needed to verify the statements made by Napoles in her affidavit so that she would “be able to say which ones are true and credible and which ones are untrue.”
But how would De Lima know which of Napoles’ statements are true or not, especially those from self-serving affidavits which portray only one side of the story?
Moreover, it’s not the DOJ’s job to verify the truth or credibility of Napoles’ allegations. That’s for the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan to decide. If the sworn statements of Napoles turn out to be false, the remedy is to charge her with the crime of perjury. But the DOJ cannot, and should not, meddle with Napoles’ affidavit in order to make it more truthful or credible.
The fact that De Lima needs to verify the veracity of Napoles’ claims also implies that the alleged pork scam mastermind is not exactly a reliable or honest witness. So why is De Lima still interested in having Napoles as a state witness?
What is also quite perplexing is that De Lima’s move to vet Napoles’ affidavit contradicts her previous pronouncements about the pork scam suspect’s trustworthiness.
In her earlier public declarations, De Lima vouched for the credibility of Napoles saying that her testimony passed the validation of the DOJ and that “there is no conflict so far [between the statement of Napoles and whistle-blowers].” But if Napoles is as credible as De Lima claims, why is she now validating her testimony?
Curiously, De Lima’s decision to “verify” Napoles’ affidavit coincided with the news leakage that the so-called “Napolist” had implicated several Aquino administration officials and Liberal Party allies in the pork barrel scam. Among them, former Batanes representative and current Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Quezon representative and incumbent Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, and Secretary Joel Villanueva, a former CIBAC party-list representative and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director-general.
Perhaps that explains why many ordinary Filipinos attribute a more sinister motive to De Lima’s vetting of Napoles’ affidavit, that is, to purge PNoy’s allies from the charge sheet or to implicate its political enemies in the anomaly.
What likewise raises some people’s eyebrows is that De Lima’s scrutiny of Napoles’ testimony is in stark contrast to how she received Ruby Tuason’s supposed exposé. We recall that when Tuason first surfaced, De Lima even described the confessed conspirator’s testimony as “slam dunk.”
“It’s more than just a corroborative testimony. This is direct evidence,” De Lima gushed. This even though Tuason didn’t really provide any substantial information that the other whistleblowers hadn’t already divulged.
Yet, Tuason’s testimony apparently did not undergo the same scrutiny as Napoles’ statements. In fact, Tuason was even hastily admitted into the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program and subsequently discharged by the Ombudsman as a “state witness,” practically acquitting her from plunder charges.
Was it because unlike Napoles, Tuason only fingered the perceived political foes of the Aquino administration?
The way we see it, the only way for De Lima to extricate herself from this “Napolist” mess is to thumb down Napoles’ plea to turn state witness and instead offer her a reduced jail sentence (or plea bargain) in exchange for her testimony.
That way, she can unmask all the “players” behind the pork barrel scam while meting out justice to confessed criminals. Otherwise, she will just confirm the suspicion of many of our countrymen that Napoles is indeed a very “privileged” suspect.