MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said on Wednesday, May 24, that he accepted the surrender of Janet Lim Napoles in Malacañang because he'd learned his lesson when he refused a similar offer from retired major general Jovito Palparan.
"Sabi ni Palparan handa siya sumuko pero kailangan sa akin daw siya susuko ang sagot ko noon bakit siya sa akin susuko eh hindi naman ako 'yung law enforcement authority na dapat tumanggap ng pagsuko niya. So tinanggihan ko tapos ilang taon ang inabot bago natin nahuli si Palparan," Aquino told reporters after a book launch in Quezon City Wednesday.
(Palparan said then that he was ready to surrender but only to me. I said why me when I'm not the law enforcement authority who should accept his surrender? So I refused his offer and it took us years before we could catch him.)
As Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reopens the investigation into the pork barrel scam, he also urges a review of the circumstances that may link the Aquino administration to the scam, one of which is Napoles' surrender.
Aguirre has not held back in statements saying the reinvestigation will target Aquino allies whom he said were spared when then secretary Leila de Lima investigated it.
He particularly has his eye on former budget secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad whom Napoles described as the one who taught her how to set up non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to transact with lawmakers using their pork barrel.
Napoles was received in Malacañang in August 2013 through then press secretary Edwin Lacierda who used to work in a law firm with Lorna Kapunan, Napoles' lawyer at the time.
Palparan, tagged as "The Butcher" by human rights activists was arrested in Manila in August 2014 after 3 years of evading arrest on kidnapping charges connected to the disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Lorna Empeno.
Kapunan told Lacierda that her client was willing to surrender, but only to the President. At the time it had been only days since an arrest warrant was issued against her for plunder.
Aquino and former interior secretary Mar Roxas took Napoles to Camp Crame where she would be detained.
Aquino also denied with conviction that he had anything to do with the pork barrel scam.
"Kung may maniniwala doon baka dapat ay maniguradong gising na muna siya bago siya nag-iisip dahil mahirap 'yung naglalakad lamang eh nananaginip parang nakadilat ang mata," Aquino said.
(Whoever believes it should first make sure he's awake. It's difficult to walk when you're dreaming even if it appears your eyes are open.)
For Aquino, the case against Napoles is too strong to merit her conversion into a state witness.
"Sa pagkaunawa natin sa pangyayaring ito siya naghanda 'nung...nag-coordinate ng lahat ng dapat nagkuntsabahan para mangyari 'yung PDAF scam so parang ang hirap intindihin naman hindi sya magiging isa doon sa pinaka-principal na hindi puwedeng gawing state witness," Aquino said.
(Based on my understanding, she prepared...she coordinated everything in the conspiracy that made the scam possible. So it will be hard to understand why she wouldn't be treated as a principal who cannot become a state witness.)
Aquino had maintained a quiet life since stepping down from office in June 2016. He is, however, not spared from controversy.