A problem like Napoles

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Monday, June 9, 2014


BRUCE RIVERA, the other lawyer of Janet Lim-Napoles, yesterday said the Napoles camp will be asking the Office of the Ombudsman “anytime soon” to reconsider its earlier decision to junk her bid for immunity in the plunder case she is facing in relation to the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales denied Napoles’s request for immunity and application as state witness because she (Morales) considers her (Napoles) as the most guilty among the respondents. Also charged with plunder with the Sandiganbayan are Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. together with some of their aides.

Rivera also clarified earlier reports quoting him as saying that if Napoles’s request for immunity would be denied with finality, she wouldn’t turn over documents that would strengthen the claims in the affidavit that she submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The affidavit included the list of personalities she said she dealt with.

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Rivera met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday and later told reporters that despite the Office of the Ombudsman’s denial of her immunity plea, she is still willing to cooperate with the government and share the documents that are in her possession.

Still, there is an interesting discussion among legal minds on what will happen to the affidavit when Napoles’s application to become state witness is denied.

Lawyer Lourdes Benipayo, legal counsel of some of the whistleblowers in the PDAF scam, noted that Napoles’s testimony was given on condition that she turns state witness.

Benipayo told rappler.com that since Napoles’s condition was not met, then the affidavit “is a mere scrap of paper.” It also can no longer be used against Napoles.

But lawyer Levito Baligod, former legal counsel of whistleblower Benhur Luy, thinks that the affidavit can be treated as a “confession” or an admission by Napoles of her guilt. He and Benipayo agreed, however, that the affidavit cannot be used to implicate or indict the persons she linked to the scam—-although it can guide probers in their investigation.

In her affidavit, Napoles tagged more than 100 lawmakers, including 20 present and former senators, as having participated in the PDAF scam. She also provided information on the P900 million Malampaya fund scam.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman clarified that the denial of Napoles’s application for immunity was only for the plunder case. Morales said Napoles can still apply as state witness in other PDAF-related complaints and her office will study it.

This should give Napoles hope because she also wants her children, who might be included in other PDAF-related cases, to also be immune from suit.

All these discussions about Napoles’s affidavit will end, though, if the DOJ, which I understand is checking the veracity of Napoles’s “confession,” will find out that she is not honest in her intention. Even then, I still cling to the hope that she is not using her affidavit to muddle the investigation of the scam and the prosecution of the perpetrators while freeing herself from criminal charges.

In this context, it would be good if public pressure is applied on the DOJ so it would speed up the verification of Napoles’s claims, that is, if that is really being done now. The affidavit and the list of personalities she linked to the scam have already created a furor. It’s time for the innocent, if there are any in the Napoles list, to be cleansed of the muck heaped on them.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 10, 2014.

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