MANILA, Philippines – If the government doesn't need the testimony of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, then she will not divulge what she knows of the multi-million-peso scam that involves more than a hundred lawmakers and government officials.
"They say they have so much already in their hands. They do not need our testimony. We will not force ourselves, di ba, kung di naman nila kailangan (if Napoles' testimony is not needed)?" Napoles' lawyer and spokesperson Bruce Rivera said in a phone interview on Thursday, June 5.
The Ombudsman, in a June 4 letter, denied Napoles' application to become state witness in the biggest corruption scandal in Philippine government in recent times. The letter stated that "Napoles appears to be among the most guilty of all respondents," thereby unable to meet the qualifications to become a witness with immunity from suit. (READ: No immunity for Napoles, says Ombudsman)
Napoles is accused of conniving with lawmakers and officials of various agencies to channel senators' and congressmen's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus projects of non-governmental organizations she controlled.
Only 3 senators?
Rivera admitted that the probability of the Ombudsman denying Napoles' request was high.
He expressed hoped, however, that the Ombudsman would grant Napoles' impending motion for reconsideration (MR) against the denial, claiming her testimony would help prosecute other lawmakers involved in the scam.
"If they decide not to listen to us, kasi nga they have their own investigation, and based on their investigation, itong tatlo na 'yung dapat kasuhan, then wala kaming magagawa, di ba? It is beyond our control, kasi hindi lang naman 'yung tatlo ang aming ano eh, what we are talking about," he said.
(If they decide not to listen to us because they have their own investigation, and based on their investigation, only these 3 [senators] should be charged, then we won't be able to do anything about that, right? It is beyond our control, because those 3 are not the only ones we are talking about.)
Rivera was referring to senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who are set to face plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan. The MRs they filed against their indictment were denied by the Ombudsman. (READ: Napoles, 3 senators to be charged before Sandigan)
Benhur's testimony vs Napoles'
"Maybe because Benhur Luy has so much evidence against the 3 [senators], but as to the others, hindi namin alam (we do not know) if they (government) want us to witness against them or not. So at this point, we are just hoping," Rivera speculated on the reason behind the Ombudsman's denial.
Luy is the principal state witness in the pork barrel scam cases. The Ombudsman granted him immunity from suit on Thursday.
A former employee of Napoles-owned JLN Corporation, Luy kept records of the company's dealings. These supposedly show names of lawmakers and agencies Napoles transacted with over a decade. An authenticated copy of Luy's records is now with the Ombudsman.
For her application as state witness, Napoles submitted to the Ombudsman two affidavits detailing what she knows about the scam.
A study of Napoles' tell-all testimony – copies of which are also with the Department of Justice and the Senate blue ribbon committee – shows that it gives Senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla elbow room to get off the hook. (READ: Napoles' tell-all favors Enrile, Estrada and Revilla)
Motion for reconsideration to be filed
Rivera said Napoles' camp is set to file an MR to have the Ombudsman's denial of Napoles' application for immunity from suit reviewed.
While still able to appeal, Rivera vowed to exhaust all legal means for Napoles to become state witness in order "to help the government and to tell the country what we know."
But if their plea is still denied, he said, "We will just accept our fate." – Rappler.com