MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Friday, March 16, that state protection granted to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles will not affect her pending cases.
“It has no effect on the cases under trial in court,” Morales said on Friday, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had granted Napoles provisional entry into the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Under the program, Napoles gets additional security and medical needs shouldered by the government. But as Morales said, this new development will not affect the 5 counts of plunder and multiple counts of graft that Napoles is facing before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
At most, the witness protection will enable Napoles to move to another jail. She has just filed a motion before the Sandiganbayan to move her from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to “WPP custody.”
It is unclear which facility “WPP custody” refers to, and what the setup will be should the court grant the motion.
Under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, it will be the Sandiganbayan that will declare Napoles a state witness upon the motion of the prosecution.
The prosecution, in this case, is the Office of the Ombudsman.
In May 2017, Morales said that if a motion is filed to make Napoles a state witness, the Ombudsman "will block any attempt to make her state witness." (READ: Ombudsman: Napoles will not become state witness)
"As [far as] the prosecution is concerned, she is one of the principal alleged malefactors. We don't find her to be a candidate for being state witness," Morales said then. (READ: TIMELINE: Janet Lim Napoles from scandal to testimony)
Morales, however, is set to retire in July.
Napoles’ WPP entry is the latest development in the bid of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to reinvestigate the pork barrel scam.
Aguirre had earlier vowed to target Aquino administration allies, particularly former budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad who Napoles claimed taught her how to set up fake non-governmental organizations to be used for ghost projects.
Abad had categorically denied the allegation when it surfaced in 2014, and said his inclusion was apparently part of Napoles’ strategy to become a state witness to get immunity by establishing that she is not the mastermind of the pork barrel scam. (READ: Abad: No evidence to support Napoles' claim) – Rappler.com