SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. rejected on Saturday the plea of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to turn state witness and be granted immunity from prosecution in the P10-billion pork barrel scandal that is hounding the Aquino administration.
“She should not be allowed [to turn state witness] as the mastermind and principal beneficiary,” Belmonte said a day after Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he suspects that a deal may have already been reached with Napoles to protect the allies of President Benigno Aquino III.
But the Palace dismissed Escudero’s claim that the Palace had reached a deal with Napoles and maintained that all government officials linked to the pork barrel scam, regardless of whether he or she is an ally of the President, will have to go through the legal process.
“The President is not protecting whoever has made mistake,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview with government radio. “The President has always said that they will be investigated.”
Besides, Valte said, Napoles has not even submitted a complete affidavit to the Department of Justice.
“At this point, there is still nothing clear. The affidavit Napoles submitted is not yet complete. At this point, we really don’t know,” Valte said over dzRB radio.
Valte repeated Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s remark that the list she submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee was pointless without a narrative and further validation of facts.
But the activist group Anakbayan deplored De Lima’s supposedly “protracted disclosure” of the Napoles list and said the delay suggested that it was “a diversionary tactic to hide the true mover of the scam.”
Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement on Saturday that the late release of the list raise doubts on its accuracy and shows government’s seeming indifference to solving the pork barrel scam case and demanding accountability.
The group called for a national day of action against pork barrel, dubbed the Black Friday Protest, on May 23.
“They should have revealed the list earlier, and why should De Lima show the list to the president first? The period we waited for De Lima’s Napoles list is enough for Aquino and his allies to sanitize it,” Crisostomo said.
“This fiasco about the different lists is a diversionary tactic meant to hide the truth that Aquino is the main perpetrator,” he added.
But Napoles lawyer, Bruce Rivera, said they are preparing to submit to the justice department a full and final affidavit containing more names involved in the multi-billion peso scam.
“We will submit within the week the full and complete detailed affidavit of Mrs. Napoles... because the first affidavit, where there is handwritten notes, was incomplete. There were names that Mrs. Napoles forgot,” said Rivera in a phone interview.
Rivera, who is also the spokesman of Napoles, said her client will identify more senators and other politicians, including allies of President Benigno Aquino III, in the new list.
“Yes, there will be more senators to be included and those allied with the President,” he said.
Rivera also brushed aside the statement of lawyer Levito Baligod, former lawyer of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, that Napoles is not credible. “That’s his opinion and everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion,” he said.
De Lima said the Napoles affidavits and the list in her possession were given to her by Napoles before she had her uterus and ovaries surgically removed at Ospital ng Makati last month.
Senator Francis Escudero earlier chided De Lima for lawyering for Napoles, and asked if the two had already struck a deal to keep administration allies like Senate President Franklin Drilon off her list of lawmakers who benefitted from the pork barrel scam.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, another administration ally, was in Luy’s list but not in Napoles’ list, he added.
Aside from Escudero, the other incumbent senators included in the first Napoles list were Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, JV Ejercito, and Juan Edgardo Angara.
Angara’s name was added to the list in Napoles’ handwriting.
Napoles was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman. Aside from Napoles, Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada were also indicted for their alleged involvement in the illegal diversion of billions of pesos from the PDAF into bogus organizations.
The plunder charge is separate from the serious illegal detention case, which is now being handled by Makati regional trial court branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda.
Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim were charged with serious illegal detention for detaining their cousin, Benhur Luy, in a house in Magallanes Village, from December 2012 up to March 22, 1013.
The businesswoman is now confined at the government-run Ospital ng Makati following the surgery after she was diagnosed with myoma.
Napoles lawyers filed a motion asking the court to allow her to stay longer at the hospital but Judge Alameda decided to reset on May 20 the hearing on the said motion.
But Speaker Belmonte said the government should not extend any special treatment to Napoles in exchange for the truth.
House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Cibac party-list agreed and said Napoles should be held liable for the crime she committed against the Filipino people.
“Napoles cannot be a state witness, she is the most guilty, the architect of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam,” Tugna said.
Aside from opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Jr., at least three Cabinet officials have been implicated in the pork barrel scam of Napoles: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority director general Joel Villanueva, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
Both opposition and administration lawmakers cautioned the justice department in accepting Napoles into its Witness Protection Program.
Makabayan Bloc’s Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, a lawyer, said Napoles’ testimony against allegedly involved legislators and government officials cannot be used as a basis to turn Napoles into a state witness.