'No repeat of Palparan case with Napoles'

Posted at 09/02/2013 1:05 PM | Updated as of 09/02/2013 6:45 PM

PNoy not bothered by criticisms - Lacierda

MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III learned his lesson after he refused to meet fugitive retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. who had once offered to surrender to him.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino thought of Palparan, who remains at large, when he accepted the offer of surrender of Janet Lim Napoles, the businesswoman at the center of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.

Palparan is being hunted for the disappearance in 2006 of student-activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. His bounty is set at P2 million.

"At a certain point, General Palparan would also like to surrender, but he wanted to meet with the president. The president said, 'why do I need to meet [him]?'" Lacierda told ANC.

"I guess it weighed heavily on his mind. Look at where Palparan is now, he is at large. Given a chance where we can take Mrs. Napoles, he decided that it is better to secure her now. Otherwise she may be at large forever," he added.

The government has drawn flak from various groups and netizens for supposedly giving Napoles special treatment when the president himself received her in Malacañang Wednesday last week after being fetched by Lacierda at the Heritage Park in Taguig City.

Aquino then went to Camp Crame to check on the room where Napoles would later be detained. A large number of policemen also secured Napoles' transfer from Camp Crame to Makati City Jail and then to her current detention room in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Lacierda said, however, all these measures were undertaken to secure Napoles, who is believed to have knowledge on the massive scam also allegedly perpetuated by lawmakers.

The camp of Napoles also said there are now threats to the businesswoman's life.

"It's nice that people are giving out their opinions or advocating their positions, but the difference between government and the people is that the government carries the burden of accountability. At which point do you draw the line and say: 'That's overkill?'" he said.

"As government people, we should err on the side of caution. We are accountable. We have to make sure she's kept alive. We'd rather be criticized for doing our job rather than be criticized for not doing our job."

Lacierda said the president is not bothered by the criticisms. "The outrage would have been far worse, if Napoles was not taken under custody."

The Palace earlier noted that the Napoles' case was not the first time that a fugitive surrendered to a Philippine president.

Napoles has something the whistleblowers don't have

Lacierda also dodged criticisms that the whistleblowers of the pork barrel scam are not being given ample protection by the government.

"If you think the concern of the president is over Napoles, the president has been discussing these things (security of whistleblowers) with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, except 'di lang ito nakalabas because we need to protect the whistleblowers," he said.

The Palace spokesperson, however, noted that Napoles' role in the pork barrel scam is undeniably important since she is being considered as the alleged link to the officials involved in the embezzlement of government funds. Thus, ensuring her safety is paramount, he said.

"Janet Napoles has to be kept alive. Everybody is pointing towards Napoles. Who can Napoles point to? That is the big the question," he said.

"She is the only one who can say things which the whistleblowers may not be in a position to say. She is an accused and has threats to her life. According to Sec. Leila de Lima, they are being protected as well. A number of them are still coming forward. As far was we know, not all are under the witness protection program yet," he said.

Napoles was ordered arrested by the Makati City Regional Trial Court for the serious illegal detention charges filed by her distant relative and former assistant, Benhur Luy, who also tagged her in the scam.

Luy is accusing Napoles of setting up fake non-government organizations to pocket pork barrel funds from certain lawmakers, who in turn allegedly got huge cuts from the deal with the businesswoman.

A case has yet to be filed against Napoles involving the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds. The government, through the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAGCC), has launched a probe into the scam.