Malacañang knew about the move to transfer alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles from a regular jail to a safe house, her lawyer said Monday.
Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, said he met with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in March, and even with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III for their legal advice on the matter.
“If I were to be candid, there was a discussion with the Executive Secretary that the Department of Justice shall take custody of Mrs. Napoles,” David said at a Sandiganbayan hearing presided by Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
David made the response after Cabotaje-Tang questioned why the Justice department refuse to co-sign Napoles’ motion for a transfer at a safe house.
David said when he consulted Medialdea about the matter, he told him “to file a motion.”
David said the matter reached the Palace, through Medialdea.
“We are in a situation where we don’t know what to do. Is she being immediately taken out of the facility, or shall we file a motion? That’s why we have to consult people in authority as to what to do, “ he added.
He clarified that he never spoke with President Rodrigo Duterte on the issue.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, meanwhile, asked Napoles to show proof of the supposed harassment and death threats against her in connection with her petition seeking her transfer to a Justice Department safe house.
“You say there was a threat, where are the records?” Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, the anti-graft court’s division chairman, asked Napoles’ legal counsel, Carlo Acasili.
“Where is the evidence? Why is it that you are filing this motion?” Lagos asked.
Acasili said the “DoJ may be in the best position to answer this matter” and the proceedings on the request of Napoles are “confidential.”
“But you already alleged it. What was confidential about that? You have no proof to support your allegation of reported harassment?” Lagos asked.
The Sandiganbayan has given the Justice department and the Ombudsman 10 days to comment on the matter.
Aside from Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, the First and and Third Divisions will also hear a similar petition where Napoles is also facing a plunder case.
An official of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Monday called on the Department of Justice to justify the provisional admission of suspected pork barrel scam architect Janet Lim Napoles into the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Abdiel Fajardo, president of IBP, stressed that there is no provision in the Witness Protection and Security Benefit Act for a provisional or temporary coverage.
“I look at the law and there is no provision about provisional acceptance so I want to hear from the DoJ what they mean by that,” Fajardo said, in a television interview.
“The law said accept or not only. If they are saying there are threats to her life, well, she is already in custody,” the IBP president added.
Fajardo said it is possible for Napoles to be used at a witness, but this did not mean she would be a credible one.
“She was a major witness since she started the JLL Corp. that allegedly started and created these supposed non-government organizations that turned out to be bogus NGOs. It’s possible but possibility is different from credibility,” he said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Monday reiterated that Malacanang will not interfere with the decision of the Justice Department to place Napoles under the government’s Witness Protection Program.
“So right now, The President is hands-off because there is no decision yet. If there’s a decision, I will ask the President if he agrees or not with the decision of the DoJ,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“But to say anything now is premature. She has not been admitted to the WPP. It is a provisional admission which only gives her temporary protection subject to the evaluation of the panel prosecutors who will recommend her admission into the program,” Roque said.
Roque declined to comment on what transpired during the meeting of between Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in early March.
The President’s spokesperson said he has not yet met or spoken with the executive secretary with regards to Napoles this week as he was in Bicol.
Roque again clarified that even though Napoles was placed under the WPP, she will still face the charges and only the court can grant her immunity if Napoles become a state witness.
“Being under the witness protection is different from being a state witness,” Roque said.
Also on Monday, lawyer Levito Baligod said the state does not need Napoles as a witness, as has pending pork scam complaints against 25 legislators, 17 of whom belong to opposition Liberal Party.
“I know that the Ombudsman is already acting on the other legislators. That is why there is no need for Janet Napoles because cases can prosper even without her as witness,” Baligod said.
Baligod was the lawyer of state witness Benhur Luy before he quit his team. Baligod proceeded to investigate the scam and filed his own cases with himself as complainant. “[It is my] civic duty,” he said.
Baligod agreed that there was “selective prosecution” when former justice secretary Leila de Lima investigated the scam.
“At that time, the Department Of Justice [DOJ] had all the evidence against everybody linked with the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] scam but it only filed cases against 25 legislators. What the other witnesses and I did was to go directly to Ombudsman and filed cases against the rest,” Baligod said.