Senate won’t hear Napoles’ testimony-A A +A
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Whistleblowers of the alleged multi-billion peso pork barrel scam were required to appear on Thursday's Senate hearing on the issue but Janet Napoles, the supposed mastermind, was spared.
Senate President Franklin Drilon heeded Tuesday the advice of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who suggested that it would not be prudent to hear Napoles' testimony at this time, especially that scam-related cases are now being evaluated by her office.
"It would be gainsaid that the publicity may be spawned by the testimony of Ms. Napoles would, among others, adversely affect public interest, prejudice the safety of witnesses or the disposition of cases against her and/or her co-respondents pending before this Office, or unduly expose them to ridicule or public censure," Morales said in response to Drilon's query whether Napoles should testify in the Senate.
She cited Section 15 of Republic Act 6770 (The Ombudsman Act of 1989) and Section 2, Rule V of Administrative Order 7 (Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman), which prohibits the public disclosure of the case's merits pending resolution.
Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice, also said summoning Napoles would not produce reliable information at this point, considering that she has publicly denied involvement in the use of bogus foundations as recipients of priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of some lawmakers.
Exempting Napoles from the probe, however, makes no sense, said Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairperson of the blue ribbon committee.
"[W]hat is so confidential about Ms. Napoles' possible testimony that it cannot be made under oath before the Senate blue ribbon committee? It just does not make logical and legal sense," he said.
For his part, Senator Francis Escudero said the Ombudsman has no authority on what Napoles can say or not in the hearing, because it is up to her whether she will invoke her right to remain silent.
Drilon defended his position, saying the request for subpoena for Napoles and the whistleblowers "are not similarly situated."
"The Ombudsman has ruled that the appearance of Ms. Napoles could prejudice the case in effect. There is no such finding in the case of the whistleblowers," he said in a press briefing.
At the Department of Justice, the whistleblowers' lawyer Levito Baligod said his clients will only testify about the scheme of corruption of pork barrel funds, which main witness Benhur Luy expound two weeks ago in the Senate.
"The whistleblowers will not say anything if the line of questioning will focus on the liability or culpability of each personality involved in the anomaly. This is in respect to the rights of the respondents and to maintain confidentiality of proceedings at the Office of the Ombudsman," he said.
Invited to the probe were Luy, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula, and Merlina Suñas, among others. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)