Palace debunks Napoles’ claim
EXECUTIVE Secretary Salvador Medialdea denied Tuesday that he advised the lawyer of detained “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles to file a motion to seek her transfer from Camp Bagong Diwa to the Department of Justice.
“Why would I give a legal advice to a lawyer for his client? If I were his client, I will fire him,” Medialdea said in the text message to the media.
Medialdea was reacting to Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David’s claim that he had a meeting in Malacañang with Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and that the executive secretary had advised him to file a motion seeking his client’s transfer after she was provisionally accepted into the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Aguirre, meanwhile, confirmed that the meeting did take place, but denied that he and Medialdea gave David legal advice.
In a press briefing in the Palace, Aguirre said they only talked about Napoles’ situation because she was pushing for a transfer to a safe house.
He also said David asked if Napoles’ admission into the WPP would mean she could be taken from her Taguig detention cell. Aguirre said he disagreed, but said David could file the necessary motions before the Sandiganbayan.
But this did not constitute giving the lawyer legal advice, he added.
Aguirre also disputed the claim of Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Grace Poe that Napoles was ineligible for the WPP because she was the mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
“Napoles would be just a co-conspirator and being a co-conspirator, she is not the most guilty and can be placed under the WPP,” Aguirre said.
Napoles, accused of diverting P10 billion in Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to non-existing projects and bogus livelihood programs, was recently admitted provisionally into the Witness Protection Program.
He added that if Napoles were granted full coverage under the WPP, the “coverage will be binding upon any and all courts including the Sandiganbayan.”
The opposition Liberal Party insinuated that President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the maneuvers to get Napoles into the WPP.
“No less than her lawyer, Stephen David, told the court that her request for transfer from the BJMP to the DoJ was upon the suggestion of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said.
“What prompted these top officials to reach out to an alleged mastermind of a multi-billion-peso scam? Who sanctioned this?” he asked.
He said Malacañang’s statement that the President is taking a hands-off stance did not jibe with the actions of his top executives.
The government, Pangilinan said, must pursue her criminal prosecution, instead of using the people’s money to give her refuge and protection through the Witness Protection Program. To do so would be a great mockery of justice, he said.
Poe, meanwhile, said Napoles—identified as the “pork barrel queen”—appeared to be the most guilty, and therefore ineligible for the WPP.
She also questioned the special treatment being given Napoles.
Opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Aguirre had no authority to anoint Janet Napoles as state witness in the multi-billion peso PDAF scam.
“The special prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, who is prosecuting Napoles, and the Sandiganbayan where the plunder cases against her are pending, are the ones vested with the authority to convert Napoles from an accused to a state witness,” Lagman said, quoting the rules of court on criminal procedure.
Lagman said upon motion of the prosecutor, the Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction to decide whether or not to discharge Napoles as state witness.
“In either case, Aguirre has neither jurisdiction nor authority to intervene in the process of discharging an accused to become a state witness,” Lagman said
“Under any standard, one who is accused as the mastermind for plotting and executing the crime, like Napoles, cannot pretend not to be the most guilty,” he added.
Lawyer Levito Baligod, the former lawyer of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, criticized the inclusion of Napoles in the WPP, saying she would not be a credible witness.