No immunity for Napoles, says Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) –  The alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam is not immune from suit.

The Ombudsman on Thursday, June 5, denied Janet Lim Napoles' “request for immunity for likewise not meeting the qualifications to become an immune witness.”

Napoles faces a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman for being the alleged mastermind of the biggest corruption scandal in the Philippines in recent history. The Ombudsman is now preparing a plunder complaint against her before the Sandiganbayan.

According to scam whistleblowers, Napoles orchestrated the theft of millions of pesos in pork barrel funds through fake projects and bogus non-governemental organizations.

From saying she knew nothing about the scam, Napoles said she was willing to “tell all” after meeting with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Napoles submitted two affidavits on the scam, in a bid to turn state witness and get immunity from prosecution in the case.

However, Morales said in a June 4 letter that "Napoles appears to be among the most guilty of all respondents.”

Napoles camp: We'll file MR

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, Napoles' counsel and spokesman Bruce Rivera said they will be filing a motion for reconsideration (MR). 

"We expected this because we filed the affidavit too late in the game. This will, of course, not stop us from filling a motion for reconsideration because we have not read the resolution. We know that once we will file the MR, the Ombudsman would have more time to look into our petition," said Rivera. 

Rivera said their plea for immunity was a long-shot since they only came in towards the end of the investigation. "Sinabi nga sa amin [ng Justice Department]: parang suntok sa buwan iyan," said Rivera. (The Justice Department told us: We're shooting for the moon.) 

Napoles, in her affidavit, denied she was the mastermind of the scam. "I am the victim of a wrong system in society that I thought was normal and legal because this became the practice for a long time,” she said.

She also asked that her children, Jo Christine and James Christopher Napoles, be spared from prosecution.

Rivera expressed confidence that the Ombudsman would still consider Napoles' testimony. "We are not losing hope because if they really want to know the truth, there is really no reason for them not to hear our testimony," he said. 

Luy and several other former employees of Napoles – Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones – have been granted immunity from criminal prosecution. – Rappler.com