Napoles won't accept anything less than immunity

Posted at 05/22/14 4:06 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles wants no less than immunity from criminal suit after spilling the beans on lawmakers and officials allegedly involved in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

Her lawyer Bruce Rivera said the detained businesswoman has not considered a plea bargain agreement with the government in lieu of immunity – to which many sectors are objecting – as an option.

“We have not really discussed the plea bargain agreement as an option,” he told The STAR.

Rivera confirmed that his client wants to become state witness in cases involving not only the pork barrel scam but also the Malampaya Fund anomaly.

He stressed that Napoles is unfazed by strong objections to her bid to become state witness and her request to be granted immunity.

“She will still continue with her testimony despite these objections. Even if she will not be accepted (as state witness), she will face the consequences of her testimony,” the lawyer said.

No less than President Aquino has expressed reservations on the qualification of Napoles as state witness.

He reportedly said that the businesswoman is not qualified because she is at the center of the scam.

But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said it is too early to decide on Napoles’ qualifications as a state witness.

“We cannot completely rule out (the possibility of Napoles as state witness) at this point when the evaluation of her statement is not yet done,” De Lima told reporters.

She said it would also be premature to talk about a possible plea-bargain deal with the detained businesswoman, who reportedly pointed to former Batanes congressman and now Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as her mentor in the scam.

“It’s too early to discuss such possibility, hence, premature to tell if plea-bargain deal will be an option,” De Lima said in a text message to The STAR.

This is precisely the reason, she said, there is a need to first validate the claims of Napoles in her supposed tell-all affidavit. She said this is government’s priority at the moment.

“We need to evaluate if she will pass the criteria of being a state witness. But it will not be my decision. It will be the decision of the ombudsman after evaluation of her qualifications as a state witness,” she stressed.

“We’re not even at that point yet. And if at all we reach that, it will be secondary to the vetting process of the veracity, truthfulness, accuracy, plausibility and believability of the claims of Mrs. Napoles,” she added.

The Witness Protection Program (WPP) law requires state witnesses to admit participation in the crime, that they should not be the most guilty and that their testimony should be necessary in the successful prosecution of the case.

The ombudsman earlier approved the application for immunity from criminal suit of another accused in the PDAF scam, socialite Ruby Tuazon, who has turned government witness.

Extend hospital confinement

Lawyers of Napoles filed yesterday afternoon an urgent motion asking the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 to allow the businesswoman to stay longer at the Ospital ng Makati (Osmak) following heavy vaginal bleeding.

In her seven-page motion, lawyer Fay Isaguirre Singson informed the court that on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., Napoles was checked by her gynecologists Elsie Badillo-Pascua and Efren Domingo, both from St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Singson said that after the check-up, Napoles’ doctors recommended the continuation of her hospital stay due to vaginal bleeding.

Napoles underwent a total hysterectomy on April 23 where a uterine cyst was removed along with her uterus and ovaries.

According to the progress report prepared by Pascua and Domingo, Napoles started complaining of vaginal spotting on May 17 and she was referred to them on May 19.

Singson said that because of Napoles’ new condition, the doctors ordered complete bed rest and that she avoid straining, lifting objects and stress.

Singson asked the court to reconsider its earlier decision ordering the return of Napoles to Fort Sto. Domingo not later than May 23.

Makati RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda on Tuesday denied the very urgent motion of Napoles asking for an extension of her stay at Osmak.

Alameda ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to transfer Napoles on or before May 23 back to Fort Sto. Domingo for detention. – With Mike Frialde, Cecille Suerte Felipe