After pork barrel scam alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ surrender late Wednesday night, everybody is anxious for one thing.
”Everybody wants to hear from her regarding this controversy,” Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair TG Guingona said.
Talks of Napoles serving as a State Witness for the impertinent investigation of the pork barrel scam have been milling around. Even Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas admits that Napoles plays a key role in solving this multi-billion scam.
“…si Ms. Janet Napoles bilang mahalagang witness para malaman ang buong katotohanan dito sa alegasyon ng korapsyon [Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles is an important witness in knowing the whole truth about these allegations of corruption],” Roxas shared at a press briefing.
A state witness is granted immunity and may place himself/herself under the witness protection program of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Under the program, the DOJ will take care of the witness’ travel and living expenses, as well as provide medical assistance and security detail if needed.
Despite the Palace considering Napoles to become a state witness, Roxas insists that Napoles did not receive any “special treatment” upon arrest.
“Ang napag-usapan lang kanina ay ‘yung kaalaman niya na may banta sa kanyang buhay at ang kanyang appeal [What we talked about earlier was about her knowledge of any threat against her life and her appeal],” Roxas was referring to Napoles’ appeal to assure her safety.
Late Wednesday night, Napoles’ chief legal counsel Atty. Lorna Kapunan contacted Presidential Spokesperson (and her colleague in Kapunan Garcia & Castillo Law Offices) Edwin Lacierda to inform the Palace of Napoles’ willingness to turn herself in. She was then brought to Malacanang to surrender to President Benigno Aquino III, who then turned her over to DILG and the Philippine National Police.
Several lawmakers just scoffed at the thought of Napoles becoming a state witness.
“[I] was really appalled that there is even a discussion whether Ms. Napoles can be a state witness,” said Guingona.
They do, however, want Napoles to face the Senate for interrogation.
”I’m planning to request for her presence but it should go through the decision of the court,” said Senator Chiz Escudero.
“[Her presence] is very important,” agreed Guingona.
Another lawmaker who vehemently disapproves Napoles being a state witness is the “dragon lady” herself, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
“There are five requirements for an accused to turn state witness. One of the requirements is that the accused does not appear to be the most guilty. Napoles will find it extremely difficult to prove her claim that she is not the most guilty,” said the former Regional Trial Court judge.
According to Santiago, under the Rules of Court, the state witness candidate should satisfy the following requirements:
- There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
- There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed; except the testimony of the accused;
- The testimony of the accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
- The accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and
- The accused has not at any time been investigated of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Napoles will prove it most difficult to absolve herself from the fourth requirement.
“It appears that Napoles was the mastermind, so she is the most guilty. Further, it appears that many persons in her syndicate know of the conspiracy to plunder, so her discharge is not absolutely necessary,” Santiago said.
With reports from Camille Diola and Louis Bacani