Give-away hint: Alleged special treatment accorded her
Malacañang drew flak from various sectors following late Wednesday night’s surrender of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam involving lawmakers.
Critics branded the surrender as an “ill-designed script” and a “political drama” staged by the Aquino administration to show that the President was serious in investigating the pork barrel controversy.
In custody. Wanted businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is shown with her lawyer Lorna Kapunan while being questioned by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras in Malacañang. MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU
Napoles’ surrender, indeed, had the hallmarks of a high political drama, with no less than President Benigno Aquino III himself receiving Napoles in Malacañang, prompting a militant peasant group leader to comment that “The (pork barrel) Queen will never surrender to anyone but to the King.”
As quoted by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Aquino had instructed Philippine National Police Chief General Alan Purisima to ensure that the air-conditioned room where she will be detained in Camp Crame was secured.
“So, I’ve already instructed (Philippine National Police chief) General Alan Purisima and (Interior) Secretary Mar Roxas to make sure your safety is assured,” Aquino had said, when Napoles personally surrendered to him at the Palace at around 9:37 p.m.. on Wednesday.
Aquino had given the greenlight for Napoles’ request to surrender only to him amid alleged threats to her life.
In exchange for the voluntary surrender, Napoles, who was clad in jeans, pink sneakers and a hoodie, was personally fetched by Lacierda, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, and Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III at the Heritage Park at 9:08 p.m. on Wednesday.
She rode a government vehicle provided by Roxas, along with her husband, Jimmy Napoles, her lawyer Lorna Kapunan and the Cabinet officials who picked her up.
Her two-vehicle convoy, complete with sweepers (motorcycle-riding policemen) arrived at the Palace at 9:37 p.m.
Entering the Palace, Napoles, who has a P10 million bounty on her head, and her husband went through the regular security checks.
Later, when she complained of palpitations en route to Malacañang, Napoles was checked by a doctor.
After that, Napoles and her entourage went up to the receiving room at the second floor where she was received by the President, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Presidential Communication Development Secretary Ramon Carandang, Roxas, and Purisima.
The meeting lasted for about 10 minutes, where Kapunan thanked Aquino for agreeing to the voluntary surrender of her client.
“The only thing that we started upon when we were discussing this whole thing was that Napoles would be provided ample protection from the threats on her life,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said there was no discussion on the P10 billion pork barrel scam and the lawmakers involved, or where Napoles hid to evade arrest and who helped her along the way.
The genial treatment did not end there -- Aquino decided to leave ahead for Camp Crame to ensure that her detention room was safe.
“The President wanted to make sure that the area was secure, so he went in and inspected the premises,” Lacierda said.
Napoles was never handcuffed at any time since she was fetched from Heritage Park.
She rode with Kapunan in Lacierda’s vehicle, while the rest of the Cabinet officials except for Ochoa also joined the convoy in their respective cars to Camp Crame, where Napoles was first booked.
Despite the perceived preferential treatment extended to Napoles, Lacierda insisted that what the government did was not extraordinary, nor did it betray any secret deal to spare administration allies when Napoles starts spilling the beans on the pork barrel abuses.
“The President said that the presence of Ms. Napoles adds to finding out the truth and that is what is important. The President views this matter very seriously and he wanted to make sure that she is turned over to the police,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure that she was safe rather than, if you don’t do anything, if you don’t take up this lead, what will you say? What you will tell us? That we did not arrest her?”
Lacierda also lashed back at critics who raised the possibility that the surrender was scripted by the Palace, saying the government was in a damned if you, damned if you don’t situation.
“Given the very controversial situation right now and the very explosive situation where Ms. Napoles finds herself in, being in the center of all this outrage, and considering that there were, according to their camp, there were serious threats on her life—in the words of Atty. Kapunan, there are those who intend to silence her permanently—the only person that they can trust is our President,” Lacierda added.
It was Lacierda who contacted Kapunan at 12:37 p.m. Wednesday after learning that Napoles was willing to surrender.
He, however, denied that he made the first move owing to his ties with Kapunan. Lacierda’s first job after passing the bar was with the Roco-Buñag-Kapunan & Migallos.
Lacierda also defended Aquino’s decision to receive Napoles at the Palace, saying other fugitives have surrendered in the past to previous presidents, citing the cases of Nicolas Enculado and Teodoro Asedillo who surrendered to the late President Manuel Quezon and rebel fighter Luis Taruc, who surrendered to President Ramon Magsaysay.
Lacierda added that Napoles’ brother, Reynald Lim, will also surrender soon.
Lim carries a P5 million bounty on his head.
The two went into hiding after arrest warrants were released against them for allegedly detaining whistleblower Benhur Luy
But the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said that Napoles’ surrender and assurance of her security, was “the first sign of political accommodation extended by Aquino as she can now be used as attack dog against the opposition.
The KMP added that they don’t believe Napoles deserves to be a state witness on the case and called on the Filipino people to remain vigilant and continue to protest against the organized plunder of the nation’s coffers through the pork barrel system.
Roxas, meanwhile, was also quoted that “there was no discussion of Napoles becoming a state witness, although he earlier tagged Napoles as “possible witness.”
Lacierda also refuted statements that Napoles will be used as a witness to pin down enemies of the current administration.
Meanwhile, the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) had ordered the transfer of Napoles to the Makati City Jail.
Judge Elmo Alameda of RTC Branch 150 issued a commitment order on Thursday directing the MCJ warden to take custody of Napoles, who was detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters after her surrender.
The Makati court set Napoles’ arraignment on September 9 at 1:30 pm.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, meanwhile, said it was “good” that Napoles surrendered.
“I just hope that she will tell the truth and bare everything she knows so that those involved in the scam would be brought to justice and be made accountable for their transgressions to the Filipino people, regardless of their political affiliations,” Binay said. With Ferdinand Fabella, Fred VillarealJoel Zurbano and AFP