MANILA—The lawyer of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles on Wednesday admitted that he has close ties with President Rodrigo Duterte but insisted he never asked him to revisit the case of his client during one of their discussions.
”The President admitted he got close ties with me. We will not deny that (knew him) even he was mayor, vice mayor. That’s not being denied in fact he admitted that during one of his interviews,” Napoles’ counsel Stephen David said in TV interview on Wednesday.
“Honestly – I will invoke God’s name – I never mentioned Janet Lim – Napoles to him (Duterte). After he mentioned that (he will revisit the Napoles case) I said, ‘What are you doing? I don’t know anything about that. He said he believed that Janet is innocent,” he noted.
David also said that during their conversation last week, he even warned the President that his statements favoring Napoles might compromise his reputation.
“You know what he (President Duterte) said? ‘She (Napoles) should be acquitted because she should never be guilty of illegal detention,” he recalled.
Earlier, the Court of Appeals reversed a Makati City court decision which convicted Napoles and her brother Jojo Lim for serious illegal detention.
David said he did not request that Napoles be acquitted in the case, but only asked the President to take another look in the cases against Napoles.
“So I said why do you know that, so I said well as to a bedan to a bedan lawyer, a bedan brother to a bedan brother we were trained by the San Beda to tell the truth , to be advocates of truth, I told him just please to study the case because I wanted to be fair. Because the previous administration were never fair to Janet,” he explained.
Duterte earlier appointed David’s wife, Lanee Cui – David, as a deputy commissioner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
”My wife was appointed because of her competence. My wife never applied for any public position… She’s a practicing tax lawyer,” said David.
After talking with the President, David said he met with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to discuss the reinvestigation on the pork barrel fund anomaly where Napoles has been tagged as mastermind.
The DOJ chief said that while several camps are pushing for Napoles to be state witness, she would have to meet the qualifications set by law – that she should not be the most guilty of the crime and that her testimony must be indispensable for the cases to stand.
Aguirre said he could only make an assessment of her eligibility once he reads her sworn statement.
”As far I know wala pang gingawa affidavit ang amin lang po dito function sa DOJ tatanggapin lang naming kung may bagong complaint siya imbestigahan under Preliminary investigation,” he noted.
Aguirre II on Monday clarified that Napoles will remain in detention even if she becomes a state witness on the reinvestigation on the planned review of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cases.
Aguirre said this will not affect her pending plunder cases, which are non-bailable, before before the Sandiganbayan.
Aguirre also assured that there will be no selective justice in connection with the reinvestigation of PDAF scam cases.
Aguirre made the statement in response to detained Senator Leila De Lima’s remarks stating that such move aims to blackmail some opposition lawmakers.
”Makakasiguro po tayo sa mula ng ako’y nanungkulan bilang Secretary of Justice, we will only be guided by evidence kaya’t kung ano ebidensiya ilalabas ang ebidensiya yun ang susundan po natin hindi magkakaroon ng selective justice katulad ng aking predecessor,” Aguirre said in television interview.
He also rebutted De Lima’s claim, saying that she is the one who can answer her question where as to why only three former senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada – were indicted before the Sandiganbayan when there are over a hundred congressmen who were tagged as involved in the anomaly by PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Aguirre said that Department of Justice is set to create a panel of prosecutors who will handle the reinvestigation PDAF cases.
“We are going to constitute another task force…pwedeng NBI-DOJ, pwedeng within the DOJ family, but masyadong maaga pa, but definitely we are going to investigate,” Aguirre said in a recently press conference .
He explained this is part of the ongoing review of the PDAF scam on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte which seeks to find out who else should be held accountable over such anomaly.