Senator: Napoles cannot be cited for contempt-A A +A
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
(3RD UPDATE) The chairperson of the Senate blue ribbon committee said Tuesday that Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, cannot be cited for contempt if she refuses to answer some questions from senators.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, committee chair, said it is understandable for Napoles to exercise her right against self-incrimination but this should be “properly invoked.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon said earlier Napoles has the right to remain silent during the Senate panel hearing.
"The right against self-incrimination is a right of Ms. Napoles," he said.
Napoles is accused of masterminding the alleged scam that saw billions of pesos in lawmakers' priority development assistance funds (PDAF) being funnelled to alleged bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).
A Commission on Audit report earlier showed NGOs linked to Napoles received P1.23 billion from Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada from 2007 to 2009.
Enrile, Revilla and Estrada along with lawmakers from the House of Representatives and other government officials were charged with plunder, graft, bribery and malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged links to the Napoles scam.
Guingona said he will never allow any grandstanding nor will he allow the hearing on the alleged pork barrel scam to be turned into a circus.
"We will observe the proper protocol. And as long as I'm the one (in charge), it's my watch, it will never be a circus," Guingona told reporters.
Guingona said he would assure Napoles camp that everyone will be treated with fairness and respect.
When asked by reporters if he will allow any executive session, the blue ribbon committee chair said he will thumb it down insisting that the public should hear the truth and nothing else.
"I will not agree to that. Kailangan talaga marinig ng lahat ang dapat marinig. Malaman kung ano nangyari at ano ang katotohanan," said Guingona.
For her part, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is hoping that the Senate will not grant immunity to Napoles just to ensure that she will spill the beans about the scam.
"Hindi natin siya maaasahan na magsasabi ng buong katotoahanan kung wala syang assurance ng immunity, kasi kung magsasalita na siya ng buong katotohanan, then that would entail self-incrimination," she said.
Since the Senate is bent on unmasking the truth, de Lima suggested to the Senate that the chiefs of staff of lawmakers and other personalities tagged in the controversy to compel their attendance to the probe.
“Hindi lang tungkol sa scheme ang gusto malaman ng committee kundi marami pa sila gustong malaman tungkol dyan sa controversy. Mas maganda tawagin na rin yung iba, yung chiefs of staff ng lawmakers sila Atty Gigi Reyes (Enrile), si Atty (Richard) Cambe (Revilla), Ruby Tuason, Pauline Labayen,” she said.
She is also looking at the possibility of cancelling the passports of Reyes, Tuason and other individuals who left the country even before the filing of cases against them before the Ombudsman last month.
Guingona admitted he is glad that the court allowed Napoles to attend the hearing.
The Senate on Monday issued a subpoena requiring Napoles to attend the investigation on the issue set on November 7, Thursday, at 10 a.m. at the Senate Session Hall.
Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court branch 150, which hears the serious illegal detention case of Napoles, on Monday allowed her attendance to the Senate hearing where she is expected to face her accusers which include whistleblowers Benhur Luy, his mother Gertrudes, Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones.
Guingona lauded the decision of the Makati RTC upholding the co-equal and coordinating powers of both the legislature and the judiciary in their pursuit of the truth.
"With the court's order for Janet Lim Napoles to appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee, we are now much closer to completing the whole story on the abuses done with the priority development assistance fund," Guingona said.
Napoles is now detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna for the serious illegal detention of her former trusted aide, Luy. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)