Whistleblowers worried over Napoles as state witness

Posted at 04/23/14 3:13 PM

MANILA (1st UPDATE) – The lawyers of Ruby Tuason and Benhur Luy on Wednesday said their clients and the other whistleblowers in the pork barrel scam case are concerned over the possibility of Janet Lim Napoles turning state witness.

Tuason's lawyer Dennis Manalo said Napoles is ''not fit'' to become a state witness given her previous denials in a Senate hearing of any involvement in the scam, which saw billions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allegedly plundered by Napoles, lawmakers and bureaucrats.

''Ang mahirap kasi is sa ngayon, hindi na natin malaman kung kailan nagsasabi ng katotohanan si Mrs. Napoles at kailan siya hindi nagsasabi ng katotohanan,'' Manalo said at a press conference.

''Kung may sinasabing full disclosure, at sinabi niya iyon under oath eh kamakailan lamang humarap siya sa publiko, sa Senado, sinasabi niyang hindi niya alam."

Manalo said Tuason and the other whistleblowers ''have risked so much of themselves, their lives'' just to reveal what they know about the scam.

''That is something that should be thoroughly studied and seriously considered by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan when the case reaches the court,'' he said.

Manalo said what Tuason and the whistleblowers would welcome is if Napoles' statement is treated as a mere ''confession."

''Moving it a step further to grant immunity and provide legal cover to a conviction against Mrs. Napoles - that brings a lot of discomfort to our clients,'' Manalo said.

Manalo said it is for the court to appreciate any mitigating value on Napoles' testimony. ''At the prosecutorial level, we don’t see how immunity will set in."

The Ombudsman, which will act as the prosecutor once a case is filed before the Sandiganbayan, has indicted Napoles for plunder and graft.


Raji Mendoza, Luy's lawyer, said Napoles may qualify as an ordinary witness, ''but this poses a threat to our existing position because we do not know as of now what are the contents of her statements."

''If she's not truthful, magka-kaproblema tayo, maaring magka-conflict doon sa mga nalantad na natin,'' Mendoza said.

''When she comes out as a witness and confronted with these statements, it can cause problems, inject doubts into existing testimonies," he added.

The whistleblowers' earlier statements may match Tuason's testimony, but Manalo said the latter's revelation may not be necessary anymore.

''Is this absolutely necessary or is this only confirming what the evidence is already saying?" Manalo said.

Manalo added that turning Napoles into a state witness is like letting the big fish go away, since the latter is supposedly one of the architects of the scam.

Mendoza said he and the other lawyers of whistleblowers would like to discuss this new development with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. He said the whistleblowers would like to see the contents of Napoles' sworn statement.

"Sila ang may inputs eh. Sila ang may first-hand information din kung totoo ba iyan o gawa-gawa lamanag yan, o partially true,'' Mendoza said.

De Lima on Tuesday said Napoles expressed willingness to reveal everything she knows about the scam.

She, however, said there is no guarantee on accepting Napoles as 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 already 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.

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.


Mendoza said the serious illegal detention case filed by Luy against Napoles could be jeopardized by the possible granting of immunity to the businesswoman.

''If she, in fact, gets accepted even just as a protected witness under the Witness Protection Program, she effectively can skirt out the detention,'' he said.

''Hindi papayag si Benhur. Personal iyon eh. Tinakot ka. Ang buhay mo, pamilya mo, ang naging alay sa sitwasyon na iyon eh."

Meanwhile, Manalo said Tuason hopes the Office of the Ombudsman will soon grant her immunity in the plunder case after she submitted her affidavit on what she knows about the pork barrel scam.

In her testimony, Tuason bared the supposed involvement of Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile's former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, in the pork barrel scam. She admitted turning over kickbacks to Estrada and Reyes.

''She (Tuason) has already given her testimony before the Senate, submitted statements with the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), DOJ and Office of the Ombudsman.

''As far as I am concerned, I already consider her a whistleblower because of the contents of her statement. She has coordinated with the other whistleblowers and they have confirmed the truthfulness of her statement,'' Manalo said.