PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will not meddle in the case of controversial alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles, giving Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre free rein on how to deal with resolving the multibillion-peso scam that has embroiled dozens of lawmakers.
“It’s up to Justice Secretary Aguirre on how to handle Napoles under the government’s witness protection program,” Duterte said in his speech Thursday at the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee National Convention in Pasay City.
Duterte said he does not micromanage the operations of government agencies and leaves the task to his Cabinet members to do what is best for the country.
“I leave them alone [Cabinet secretaries] ... Si Vit Aguirre—I said about Aguirre, ‘Why is he caught up in the Napoles issue again? Well, it’s his strategy,’” the President said.
However, Senator Grace Poe scoffed at the Department of Justice for “not doing its job” on the pork barrel scam.
Poe said Thursday she was “baffled” by the Aguirre-led agency’s decision to make Napoles, who has been tagged as the scam’s mastermind, as a state witness.
“The DoJ should be thoroughly doing its job. The DoJ should not rely on those involved in the case,” she said.
Poe noted that what Napoles was doing —by offering to become a state witness and thus enter the WPP—is just “natural” to save herself.
“You will say anything. She’s doing self-preservation so why give premium on the testimony of a person who is part of this corruption?” the senator told reporters.
Aguirre said the DoJ wanted Napoles to be a state witness and said she could be one if she is willing to shed light on the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam.
Napoles, who was earlier placed under “provisional” witness protection, was now ready to “tell all” she knew of the scam, Aguirre said.
Napoles is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. She is facing multiple charges of plunder, graft and direct bribery before the Sandiganbayan for her alleged role in the scam.
Earlier, a lawyer for Napoles admitted they sought legal advice from Malacañang for her to be taken out of her detention at Camp Bagong Diwa and be provisionally placed under the WPP.
Poe said Napoles, as the alleged mastermind, was not worthy of government protection at all.
The DoJ’s assertion that Napoles was “not the most guilty” in the pork barrel scam was questionable when pieces of evidence against her even led to the indictment and detention of several high-profile public officials, including three senators, Poe noted.
For her part, Senator Leila de Lima said since Napoles was already in jail, she should rot in there for the rest of her life.
Malacañang, through the Office of the Solicitor General, had Napoles acquitted by the Court of Appeals in her serious illegal detention case.
“We already jailed the three biggest clients of Napoles—[former senators] Enrile, Jinggoy, and Bong Revilla—but the courts, for one lame reason or another, keep on setting them free,” said De Lima, who was Justice secretary in the Aquino administration and ordered Napoles’ detention.
“We charged others implicated by whistleblowers, in three batches, with the Ombudsman, backed by solid evidence that she deemed was enough to prosecute them at the Sandiganbayan,” said De Lima.
She said most, if not all of them, have in fact been charged already before the Sandiganbayan, and undergoing trial. “But unlike the three senators, theirs are bailable charges, hence, they’re not in detention.”
“Now Aguirre wants the Sandiganbayan to bow to Malacañang’s wish and throw away all the evidence against Napoles and turn her over to the DOJ. They’re helping her attain freedom, so they can use her for their own malevolent agenda,” she said.
“We charged even PNoy’s allies, like Ruffy Biazon and Joel Villanueva. And they still call it selective justice, just because those who they wanted to be destroyed were not included. We did not charge others in the so-called Napoles list because there was then no evidence against them—even by COA’s own records on how they spent their PDAF, much less based on the documents and testimonies of the whistleblowers,” De Lima added.
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