Why Napoles can't be a credible witness

Posted at 04/23/14 1:37 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Both the former and current lawyers of pork barrel scam key whistleblower Benhur Luy believe that Janet Lim Napoles cannot be a credible witness in the case.

Lawyers Levito Baligod and Raji Mendoza, Luy's former and current lawyers, respectively, said Napoles' previous denials of any involvement in the scam undermine her credibility as a potential witness.

Speaking to dzMM, Baligod said a witness' ''reputation for truthfulness must be unassailable'' for one to become credible.
'Mae-establish ng defense na nagsisinungaling si Napoles. Iyan ang importanteng element sa isang witness - dapat wala kang reputation na nagsisinungaling ka," he said.

''Kung magiging state witness si Napoles, sa tingin ko ang makikinabang diyan eh si Ginang Napoles at 'di ang estado."

In a separate interview on ANC, Mendoza shared Baligod's opinion, saying Napoles' new disclosures make her ''vulnerable to being impeached during the trial."

Mendoza also noted that Napoles was under oath when she denied being part of the multi-billion peso scam before a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last November.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Tuesday said Napoles expressed willingness to reveal everything she knows about the scam, which saw billions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) plundered by Napoles, lawmakers and bureaucrats.

De Lima, however, said there is no guarantee yet whether Napoles would be turned into a state witness, which may lead to her being dropped from the suit.

She said this decision lies with the Office of the Ombudsman, which has indicted Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Enrile's former chief of staff Gigi Reyes, and several others for plunder and graft.

'Too late'

Baligod also believes that as far as the pork barrel cases already filed before the Office of the Ombudsman are concerned, Napoles' decision to come forward is ''too late in the day."

He explained that the Department of Justice (DOJ) can admit Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP), but this would be too late as the cases have already been submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.

''Mukhang too late in the day na mai-admit si Ginang Napoles sa WPP kung ang patutunguhan ng testimonya niya eh laban sa nakasuhan na,'' he said.

Baligod cited Section 3 of Republic Act 6981 (Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act) that states that a person may be admitted to the WPP if he ''has witnessed or has knowledge or information on the commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or about to testify before any judicial or quasi-judicial body, or before any investigating authority."

''Halos tapos na ang proseso sa Ombudsman, so 'di ko alam kung saan sumasailalim ang prosesong ginagawa ngayon para kay Ginang Napoles kasi sabi ko nga, ang quasi-judicial body na Ombudsman eh tapos na ang proseso doon,'' Baligod said.

Nonetheless, Baligod said it is now for the Office of the Ombudsman to evaluate the weight of Napoles' testimony.

Baligod said Napoles' testimony may be used to file cases against other lawmakers, government officials and other personalities who were not included in the first two batches of pork barrel cases.

But Baligod said doing this would raise a legal question regarding Napoles' status as a respondent in the first two batches of pork barrel cases and even in the serious illegal detention case filed by Luy.

''I trust in the wisdom of the DOJ particularly Secretary Leila De Lima, pero kailangan po sigurong masagot iyong ibang katanungan natin,'' he said.

'Lay down new things'

Mendoza, meanwhile, said although Luy was surprised with Napoles' change of heart, the whistleblower is not totally opposed to the businesswoman spilling the beans on the scam.

He, however, said Napoles must only become a witness - whether as an ordinary or state witness - ''as to things that have not been laid down."

''We feel that she should not contradict what has already been laid down. We feel if she has something to say, then tell us something new, or what wasn’t taken up in the Senate hearing. She was already under oath in the Senate hearing, and now she comes with a testimony. Would that be credible?" Mendoza said.

Atty. Bruce Rivera, Napoles' legal counsel, said his client is not demanding to be turned into a state witness in exchange for her tell-all testimony.

''Ang sinasabi ni Mrs. Napoles, gusto niyang makausap si Sec. De Lima. Gusto niyang sabihin ang kanyang nalalaman. Kung tatanggapin siyang state witness bakit hindi, pero kapag hindi naman, eh di okay lang," Rivera told dzMM.

Rivera also noted that Napoles had thought about coming forward even before she faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the scam.