MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday said that the suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles may be consider to be the government witness in connection with the planned review of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cases.
Aguirre sought for a comment after the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and acquitted Napoles over the serious illegal detention charges filed against her by whistle-blower Benhur Luy
Aguirre said the ongoing review of the PDAF scam, which President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered, was meant to find out who else should be held accountable.
The DoJ Secretary said that he had been discussing with former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica the possibility of communicating with Napoles to determine if she would be willing to cooperate in the review of the PDAF cases.
“Yes actually we are planning (to talk to Napoles). Actually, our partner here in the build up of the case is Greco Belgica since he is the one who made a study on this matter (PDAF),” said Aguirre.
He met with Belgica last week and “we were planning, we are committed (to ask) Janet Lim-Napoles if she is willing to cooperate.”
Belgica was among those who filed a petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the PDAF or “pork barrel” unconstitutional. In 2013, the SC ruled that PDAF was an unconstitutional.
The DOJ Secretary believes that Napoles could be a credible government witness if she could substantiate her testimonies with evidence.
“Depende sa sasabihin niyan (It depends on what she says). If coupled with documents then there is no reason why she should not be credible,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Aguirre said he respected the CA ruling which acquitted Napoles in the serious illegal detention case.
“Kung talagang walang ebidensya o yung ebidensya points out that she be acquitted so be it (If there is really no evidence or the evidence points that she be acquitted so be it). “We respect the courts decision on this matter,” he noted.
The CA ordered Napoles to be released, but she is being tried for other plunder cases with the Sandiganbayan, she might have to remain in detention.
“If she has been cleared in other offenses then she should be released but as far as I know she still has other cases pending before the Sandiganbayan,” Aguirre said.
Napoles is also facing before the Sandiganbayan multiple charges of plunder, graft and direct bribery in connection with the PDAF scam.
Among her co-accused in the pork barrel cases are former elected government officials including former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Napoles would remain detained since she faces other charges connection with the alleged pork barrel scam implicating some lawmakers and other government officials.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said that commitment orders of the SB against Napoles stand because they were issued in connection with the cases pending before the SB, these orders constitute the legal bases for her continued detention.
Napoles is still detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.