JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Tuesday, March 20, that he believed Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, would play a key role in serving justice if she will "speak and tell the truth" about the scandal.

Aguirre defended the move of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to place Napoles under provisional government protection, saying it is the only way to persuade her to reveal everything she knows about the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

"I believe that justice will be done, if Janet Napoles will be allowed to speak and tell the whole truth about this," he told Palace reporters.

He said Napoles expressed willingness to "tell all," only if the DOJ heeds her request to admit her to the provisional coverage of the department's witness protection program.

Aguirre said Napoles made the commitment when they met sometime in January.

"That's why we placed her there. She said, 'I will tell everything.' We are expecting that and if she would not fulfill that -- because we have face-to-face (meeting) -- that (placing her under witness protection program) will not happen," he said.

"We met. She told me, 'I'm going to tell all, including all the controversies linked to this PDAF scam. I will tell everything about that,'" the Justice secretary added.

Napoles is facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan for her alleged involvement in the misuse of the PDAF allocation of former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.

Napoles is the alleged brains behind the misused funds of the PDAF fund, which was purportedly funneled into her bogus non-governmental organizations.

Despite her role in the PDAF scam, the DOJ issued a certification announcing Napoles' partial admission to the DOJ's witness protection program starting February 27.

Aguirre gave assurance that Napoles would not be fully covered by the program if she "appears to be the most guilty."

But if she qualifies, that means the government "put(s) faith in her," Aguirre said.

"Once she's put under the full coverage of the witness protection program, that act of putting her as a state witness will be binding upon orders of the court, including Sandiganbayan," he said.

"As to the statement of Janet, that would be a matter of credibility and we cannot foretell that," he added.

Palace hands-off on Napoles case

Meanwhile, Aguirre also confirmed that he and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea met with Napoles' lead counsel, Stephen David, in Malacañang in early March.

The meeting was held after the DOJ granted Napoles partial protection from the government.

David on Monday, March 20, first revealed his supposed meeting with Aguirre and Medialdea, saying that the two agreed that Napoles' camp should file a motion for the transfer of Napoles' custody to the DOJ.

Aguirre said he and Medialdea told David that "it's better that you file the case or the appropriate motion before the Sandiganbayan."

Prior to Aguirre's remark, Medialdea denied giving legal advice to Napoles's lawyer.

When sought for reaction on Medialdea's statement, Aguirre was quick to clarify that the former was merely giving his opinion on Napoles' case.

"It's not giving legal advice; He (Medialdea) was just giving his opinion," he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. supported Aguirre and stressed that "Malacañang is not behind anything, as far as Napoles is concerned."

Roque also maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte was confident that Aguirre was "doing the right thing" in handling the issues concerning Napoles.

"There's a law governing admission to the witness protection program, and the law says it is the DOJ that will decide this matter. The President does not micromanage. He will allow the line agencies to perform their duties according to the law," he said.

"He (Duterte) will reserve, of course exercise supervision and control, if need be. But right now, it's a provisional coverage to the witness protection program, it is for the purpose of examining her affidavits, whether or not she should in fact be discharged from any case," Roque added. (SunStar Philippines)