'Ombudsman can't stop Senate from summoning Napoles'
MANILA – The Ombudsman cannot stop the Senate from summoning alleged pork barrel scam middleman Janet Lim Napoles in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, a law dean said.
Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law, said the powers of the Congress should prevail over the rules cited by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in preventing Napoles from testifying before the Senate.
He said Senator Franklin Drilon's decision not to summon Napoles, per the advice of Morales, is regrettable "because both jurisprudence and law are on the side of Congress" in this case.
"It is a rule of prudence, [meaning] the Ombudsman will weigh the circumstances. It is not a hard and fast rule," Aquino told dzMM.
"You cannot invoke this rule against an established power of the Congress, which is to conduct investigation… while the Office of the Ombudsman is a constitutional body, it cannot be as powerful as a branch of government."
Drilon on Wednesday announced that he did not clear Napoles' appearance supposedly scheduled for tomorrow, saying he accepted Morales' advice.
However, he still signed the subpoena for the whistleblowers at the request of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Teofisto "TG" Guingona III.
In her letter, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales cited Rule V, Sec. 2 of the Ombudsman Rules of Procedure that states that "no publicity shall be made of matters which may adversely affect national security or public interest, prejudice the safety of witnesses or the disposition of the case, or unduly expose persons complained against to ridicule or public censure."
Morales said "it would not be advisable, at this time, for Ms. Napoles to testify before the said committee on 'what she knows' about the alleged scam."
She added Napoles' appearance "would not produce at this stage complete, nay reliable information that the legislation intends to affect or change."
The Ombudsman also argued that given Napoles' consistent denial of her involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam, "the objective of the Senate in summoning her to testify would be an exercise in futility."
Guingona, who had already snapped at Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday for failing to bring the whistleblowers to the hearing for the same reasons, said the Ombudsman's opinion was only advisory in nature.
Napoles is being accused of setting up fake non-government organizations, allegedly in connivance with several lawmakers, to pocket the pork barrel funds, officially named as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Plunder, graft and malversation charges have since been filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.