Prosecuting Napoles-A A +A
Spark of Law
Sunday, September 1, 2013
IT DID not help that PNoy took the time and trouble of accommodating the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Chief of the Philippine National Police or the Secretary of Justice could have done the job, without causing so much brouhaha. There might be no law prohibiting the surrender to the president but propriety should have been observed. You cannot let the brain of the scam enter the hallowed grounds of the people’s palace.
In all appearances, the presidential accommodation is pregnant with so many speculations. Is PNoy indeed indebted to Janet Lim-Napoles by way of campaign fund contribution during the 2010 Presidential elections? Is PNoy just making sure that his partymates would not be dragged in the finger-pointing by the main actor of the P10-billion pork barrel scam? Or is PNoy really just concerned of protecting the potential state witness who would lay bare the worst scam ever?
The presidential accommodation now casts a doubt to the move of making Janet Lim-Napoles as state witness. If she does become a state witness, she would be granted immunity from criminal prosecution in all cases relating to the pork barrel scam. She can even cut a deal, God forbid, that her assets will not be confiscated in favor of the state.
Of course, the testimony of Janet Lim-Napoles would be a blanket revelation as to who among the legislators are involved in this grand pork barrel scam. Her testimony is direct from the horse’s mouth. She can corroborate the testimony with secret documents or records which she may have in her possession. Her testimony, no doubt, will pin legislators to the plunder charge and they should now start acquiring wheelchairs as they check-in at St. Luke Hospital.
Napoles as state witness though has to pass through legal hurdles under the Amended Rules On Criminal Procedure. Rule 119, Section 17 of the said rules state: “When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that:
(a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
(b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused;
(c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
(d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and
(e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Of the elements of becoming a state witness, Janet Lim-Napoles will find it hard to qualify under the fourth element: “The accused does not appear to be the most guilty.” She was the brain behind the pork barrel scam. She put up the bogus NGOs, and came up with ghost projects. She is technically the principal by induction, the brain behind the scam.
Technicality will disqualify Janet Lim-Napoles as state witness. However, we have to look at the wider perspective. The Supreme Court in several occasions disregard technicality in the pursuit of the truth. The procedural rules are observed so that the truth will come out. Where the rules become the obstacle to the truth, then it should be set aside.
If the documentary evidences and the testimony of the whistleblowers are enough to convict Napoles and all the legislators involved in the scam, then her becoming a state witness is not required. But if the available evidences would only convict Napoles but the legislators who are involved go scot-free, then we have to sidestep technicality.
The legislators who are involved in the scam should be prosecuted. As between them and Janet Lim-Napoles, the former have to answer to the people. The legislators are in the position of trust by the people. By getting involved in the scam, they have betrayed the trust of the sovereign.
Unlike Janet Lim-Napoles, the legislators have a covenant with the people. Their betrayal of peoples’ trust would make them more culpable than Napoles who is a mere civilian. It is lesser evil to free civilian Napoles than letting the legislators involved in the scam off the hook. The damages wrought by these legislators on our democratic system are far ranging. They are like cancer cells eating-up our body politic.
If only to convict the legislators involved in the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles should be made state witness. Technicality should bow to the dictates of truth and justice.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 02, 2013.