Handling Napoles-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
HOW many fugitives get the chance to surrender to no less than the President–-and in Malacañang, yet?
As the Tagalogs say, “iba na talaga ang big-time.”
I can’t blame Janet Lim-Napoles, though. With a P10-million bounty on her head and the reported involvement of so many powerful people in the racket that she allegedly masterminded, she has reason not to trust just anyone. There is a clear and imminent threat to her life.
President Noynoy Aquino’s agreeing to meet with Napoles wasn’t without a risk either.
She is probably the most unpopular individual in the country today. Even those who benefitted from her largesse are keeping a safe distance away from here.
That Aquino consented to personally accept her surrender could be seen that he does not fear the so-called guilt by association. He also probably wanted to deliver the message that Napoles is now under his protection to discourage those, to whom she is better dead than alive, from harming her.
Still Malacañang, including Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, took pains to point out that the two met only briefly after which she was whisked off to the national police headquarters. The message was subtle but it was clear: no deals were cut between the President and the accused.
Still, it is interesting to see what happens next. The social media has been in a
frenzy since news of her surrender surfaced. Netizens are talking, with trademark irreverence, of neck braces, wheelchairs and hospital arrest.
But the question that really matters will not be answered until the National Bureau of Investigation has finished its fact-finding investigation of the pork barrel scam, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has filed plunder charges against Napoles, et al with the Ombudsman and the latter has completed its preliminary investigation and, finding probable cause, elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan.
Will Napoles be discharged as a state witness?
For that to happen, she has to seek, or consent to, it. You can’t have a hostile state witness. After that, she has to convince the Sandiganbayan that she deserves the dropping of the charges against her so she can join the cause of the prosecution.
Under the rules, for an accused to be discharged as a state witness, the court, before whom the case is pending, has to be persuaded that he/she is not the most guilty and that his/her testimony can be corroborated and is absolutely necessary to convict the remaining co-accused.
Again all these are premised on the assumption that Napoles will ultimately be charged in court (the Sandiganbayan) along with other accused, including probably some congressmen and/or senators.
That could take long in coming. We’re still only at the evidence-gathering stage.
There are many peremptory challenges that the respondent or accused can raise along the way. Remember that Napoles is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
In the meantime, she remains detained for the illegal detention case that her relative-–and whistleblower-–filed against her. Applying for bail is an option (serious illegal detention is a capital offense and, as a rule, non-bailable, but an exception can be made when the evidence of guilt is not strong).
The fact that she immediately went into hiding after the court issued the warrant of arrest against her and her co-accused could, however, weigh against any application for her temporary liberty.
Moreover, Napoles should now seriously consider whether or not she is safer outside of her detention cell than inside it and whether or not there is real need to keep herself insulated from those who believe that dead men tell no tales.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2013.