Why Lacierda met Napoles in a cemetery and PNoy had to go to Crame
MANILA - Malacañang released six photographs showing Janet Napoles’ arrival at the Palace past 9 o’ clock Wednesday night before he finally surrendered to President Aquino.
The photos show Napoles and her husband Jimmy, a retired Marine major, first undergoing security check at the Palace’s main entrance before proceeding to the President’s Hall on the second floor.
The next photos show Napoles seated in the sofa at the receiving area beside her lawyer Lorna Kapunan who is seen speaking to Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.
While waiting for President Aquino’s arrival, Napoles would be seen seemingly looking at the ceiling, as if a telling indication of the gravity of the situation that she is in.
Kapunan is again seen speaking to Almendras along with presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
LACIERDA AS BRIDGE
It was Lacierda who served as the bridge to Napoles’ surrender. Lacierda was once an associate in a law firm co-headed by Kapunan.
It was Wednesday noon when Lacierda first called up Kapunan upon seeing a news item on the ABS-CBN News Channel quoting Kapunan that her client is willing to surrender if her security could be ensured.
“So I said: ‘So what do you want? So you want to surrender?’ And she said at that point: “We would like to surrender. If at all, let me confirm with my client that we would like to surrender to the President.” Why the President? “Because [he’s] the person that we trust,’” Lacierda narrated to reporters.
Lacierda then informed the President of the developments who then instructed Secretary Mar Roxas and Chief PNP Director General Alan Purisima to make the necessary security preparations.
Lacierda boarded a vehicle escorted by security personnel to meet Kapunan in the agreed meeting place. Kapunan was with Janet’s husband, retired Marine major Jimmy Napoles.
“When they boarded, I asked them: ‘Where are we going?” And sinabi ni Mr. Jimmy Napoles… was: ‘Let’s go to Heritage Park,’” Lacierda said.
Lacierda was updating the President of the developments. The President was concerned about Lacierda’s safety.
“The President made sure to tell, instructed Secretary Mar Roxas, to provide this thing with escorts kasi nga PNP si… DILG si secretary Mar Roxas. So the President was concerned for my safety, so that’s why we had to inform the President, nasaan na ako,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda, however, had no clue that Heritage Park was a cemetery located in Taguig.
Asked if he felt any apprehension about his safety given the nature of the final meeting place, Lacierda said, “You know, the benefit of it was I didn’t know where that place was. Hindi ako taga-roon e. So sinabi ‘Heritage, punta tayong Heritage.’ Sabi ‘nung driver, alam niya, so hindi ko alam kung ano ‘yon e. So hindi ko pala alam sementeryo pala ‘yon.”
It was 8:06 PM and the group waited for about an hour more before Janet Napoles finally appeared. She was accompanied by a lady who appeared to carrying her things.
Lacierda later understood why they had to meet Napoles in the cemetery.
“We had to go a dark place para nobody will be able to—kung may threats following si Ms. Napoles. She was in a… Yes, naka-hoodie siya. She was in a hoodie. I was not afraid because it was a… When I learned it was a cemetery, it was nothing to me,” he said.
Napoles was not handcuffed.
There are no photos of the President’s meeting with Napoles which, according to Lacierda, lasted for 10 minutes.
There was no talk of the possibility of Napoles’ turning into a state witness in the case being prepared in connection with the pork barrel scam.
The President only assured Napoles of her safety.
She turned over to the PNP and not the NBI which has former tracker teams to find Napoles.
“According to… Atty. Kapunan, the family has some issues with NBI. [As to] what those issues are? Hindi ko alam,” Lacierda said.
Aquino then decided to proceed to Camp Crame ahead of Napoles to personally ensure her safety.
“Sabi niya: ‘Tutal, puyat na tayo rito, damay-damay na tayo.’ But let me say it formally, that the President has said this, that the presence of Ms. Napoles adds to finding out the truth—‘yan po ang mahalaga—and the President views this matter very seriously and he wanted [to] make sure that she is turned over to the police. Kaya ‘yun po ang ginawa ng ating Pangulo,” Lacierda said.
The Palace downplayed the President’s personally receiving Napoles, saying it is not the first time that a fugitive surrendered to a president.
“It’s in our culture that the fugitive who throws himself at the mercy of the highest official, the President, is honor-bound to secure and receive the fugitive. This is not the first time it happened,” Lacierda said.
There circumstances, Lacierda said, is also extraordinary and that the fugitive’s surrender should be viewed on a “case-to-case basis.”
“Given the situation right now, the very controversial situation and the very explosive situation where Ms. Napoles finds herself in, being in the center of all this outrage, and considering that there were, according to their camp, there were serious threats on her life—in the words of Atty. Kapunan, there are those who intend to silence her permanently—the only person that they can trust is our President.”
The Palace insists Napoles was not given the special treatment and that cases against her will proceed.
“The President views this very seriously was the fact that he raised a P10-million bounty—he offered a P10-million bounty. So that shows the gravity of this wanting to find Ms. Napoles. So now that she’s present, now, that she has been secured, she has been detained, the case should move forward,” Lacierda said.