Lacierda admits brokering Napoles’ surrender-A A +A
Thursday, August 29, 2013
MANILA (3rd Update) -- Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda admitted Thursday of facilitating the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles, who was wanted for serious illegal detention and allegedly the brain in the multi-billion peso pork barrel fund scam.
In a press briefing, Lacierda narrated how Napoles ended up surrendering to President Benigno Aquino III at 9:37 p.m. in Malacanang.
The official said he called up Napoles' lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, at around 12:37 p.m. and inquired if a report on television was true that her client was willing to surrender because of the threat on her life.
Kapunan, who claimed of not having direct communications with Napoles, reportedly said that if her client would surrender, it would be to the President, he said.
When he asked why with the President, Kapunan reportedly replied, "because (he's) the person that we trust."
After his about 10-minute conversation with Kapunan, he said that he reported it to the President.
His next conversation with Kapunan was at 4:06 p.m. when she called him up informing him that Napoles was willing to surrender, Lacierda said.
After that, he said he again reported it to Aquino, who already instructed Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II to turn over Napoles to the Philippine National Police's (PNP) custody when she surrendered.
Lacierda said Kapunan instructed him to go to Whitespace in Pasong Tamo, Makati City where he met with her and with Napoles husband, Jimmy.
The spokesman was accompanied by deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte and Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO).
The group then proceeded to Heritage Park in Taguig City where they fetched Napoles, who was accompanied by another woman, at past 9:00 p.m.
Lacierda said that they arrived in Malacanang, along with Napoles, who was frisked by the members of the Presidential Security Group and checked by a doctor, at 9:37 p.m.
Aside from the President, other officials who were present in Malacanang when Napoles surrendered were Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, PCDSPO Secretary Ricky Carandang, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Valte, Quezon, Roxas and PNP Chief Alan Purisima.
During the 10-minute meeting in Malacanang, Lacierda said that it was Kapunan who was talking most of the time.
Aquino ordered Roxas and Purisima to "make sure that your (Napoles) safety is assured," he said.
The President even accompanied Napoles to Camp Crame police headquarters.
"So pagdating namin doon, she was brought to the holding area tapos the usual procedure, booking procedure ginawa doon. The President wanted to make sure that the area was secure so he went in to inspect the premises and, after that, umalis na rin si Pangulong Aquino," he said.
Napoles decided to surrender after Aquino announced of the P10-million reward for anyone who could give information leading to her arrest.
Even if Lacierda brokered Napoles' surrender, the spokesman said that no one would get the bounty.
The PNP on Thursday returned to a Makati Regional Trial Court the arrest warrant issued for Napoles.
Napoles was not with the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group members who returned the warrant to Judge Elmo Alameda of the RTC branch 150.
Radio reports said Napoles stayed at Camp Crame, where she had been staying since she was brought there from Malacanang on Wednesday night.
No special treatment
Lacierda said the President assured the safety of Napoles, who was wanted for alleged serious illegal detention of her former employee and main whistle-blower in the fund mess.
"The only thing that was discussed during that voluntary surrender was the preparations that were done to ensure her (Napoles) safety," Lacierda said.
But he said that it was never mentioned where the threat on Napoles' life was coming from.
The spokesman said that the possibility of Napoles becoming a state witness was also not discussed during the 10-minute meeting in Malacanang between Aquino and Napoles' camp.
The spokesman defended Aquino on criticisms that his administration gave Napoles a special treatment. He said that the President only accommodated her as part of his administration's goal of searching out for truth.
"I had said this that the presence of Ms. Napoles adds to finding out the truth, 'yan po ang mahalaga," he said.
"Let me just say that the President is an honorable man. It's in our culture that the fugitive who throws himself at the mercy of the highest official, the President is honor-bound to secure and receive the fugitive," Lacierda added.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said they were unaware of Napoles’ plan to yield to the President. She was not at the Palace during the surrender.
"Kung ni-reject naman ni Pangulo yung request na yun tapos malalaman ng taumbayan na ganun pala magsusurrender na pala tapos di nyo pa pinatulan di nyo pa tinanggap, parang damn if you do damn if you don't pero nirerespeto namin yan," she said.
Napoles' decision not to surrender to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was also expected, de Lima said, because it is the lead agency gathering evidence against the businesswoman’s alleged illegal transactions with government.
The NBI is also a co-complainant in the serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Asked if she how she felt upon learning that the NBI was kept under the dark of Napoles’ surrender, de Lima said her feelings do not matter in issues like this.
"We want to handle that in a very professional manner and a very objective manner," she said.
Lacierda, meanwhile, noted that this was not the first time that a fugitive surrendered to the president of the Philippines.
He cited the surrender of Nicolas Enculado and Teodoro Asedillo, both bandits, to late President Manuel L. Quezon in Malacanang.
Luis Taruc, an insurgent and leader of Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), surrendered directly to late President Ramon Magsaysay on a presidential yacht through the facilitation of late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., the President's father, he added. (SDR/Virgil Lopez/JK/Sunnex)