MALACAÑANG on Wednesday expressed confidence that the Department of Justice (DOJ) can turn alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles into a state witness, despite strong opposition from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Morales has every right to express her objection on the government's plan to make Napoles a state witness in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund anomaly.
Abella, however, said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre "will be able to do what he says to do."
"Well, these are two separate branches of government so the Ombudsman, you know, [is] quite free to express her opinion regarding the matter. But however, I do trust that the DOJ Secretary will be able to do what he says he will do," he said in a television interview.
Aguirre had floated the possibility of turning Napoles into a state witness in the new inquiry on the scam involving the PDAF allocations of members of Congress.
Napoles was offered to turn state witness after she has been acquitted by the Court of Appeals in the serious illegal detention case of her second cousin and pork barrel whistle-blower Benhur Luy.
She, however, remains detained as she is still facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan, along with her co-accused former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Morales vowed Tuesday to block any move to make Napoles a state witness in the re-investigation of the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
She argued that Napoles is not fit to become a state witness because her bogus non-governmental organizations were principal benefactors in the PDAF scam.
"As far as the prosecution is concerned, she (Napoles) is one of the alleged principal benefactors. Certainly, the OSP (Office of the Prosecutor) will block any attempt to make her a state witness," Morales said.
Aguirre had explained that an individual accused of committing wrongdoing can be a state witness if he or she is not the "most guilty."
For her part, Morales said the court has the "last say" on Napoles' fate as possible state witness.
Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that "when two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case."
Asked if Palace supports Aguirre's move to make Napoles a state witness, Abella said: "I wouldn't know if I say support. I would just say that I would defer to him."
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said Napoles is just a "miminal player" on the pork barrel scam.
Abella, however, said he could not speak on behalf of the President whether he backs move to turn Napoles into state witness.
"I don’t know exactly what he (Duterte) wants in this case. He hasn’t verbalized it. He hasn’t verbalized it. He hasn’t verbalized anything on the matter so I defer to his decision," he said. (SunStar Philippines)