EXECUTIVE Secretary Salvador Medialdea said he didn’t give legal advice to Stephen David, lawyer of “Pork Barrel Queen” Janet Lim-Napoles, on her request for transfer from the jailhouse to Department of Justice custody.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, whom David said he also sought for advice in Malacañang, said it was not legal advice but mere opinion.
Is it not being petty? If it were related to an ordinary case, not to the P10 billion theft of state funds that was exposed in July 2013, the question on ethics would be brushed off as inconsequential.
The controversial DOJ move that “provisionally” accepted Napoles under its witness protection program (WPP) has appalled many people who see her as “the most guilty” among those who took part in the fraud. And here comes the disclosure by Napoles’s lawyer before Sandiganbayan that the two officials advised him how to secure the WPP benefit.
Medialdea and Aguirre gave an opinion, not advice? What’s the difference? “This is what I think” -- that’s opinion. “This is what I think you should do” -- that’s advice. That’s how blogger Mark Barrit distinguishes one from the other. Opinion becomes advice if there’s “counsel, command, control or even manipulation.”
Apparently Medialdea and Aguirre were just airing informal, off-the-cuff remarks to David about Napoles. (David reportedly frequents Malacañang.) But the DOJ chief and the executive secretary should’ve refrained from even talking about the case with David who they know is lawyering for someone who’s accused of masterminding the scam of the decade.
Medialdea reportedly said in text message to ABS-CBN: “Why would I give legal advice to his client? If I were his client, I (would) fire him.” Indeed but advice or opinion, it would’ve been a no-no. Public reaction affirmed that.
The two high officials represent the government. They must not be seen to be making out, if not actually sleeping, with the enemy. People expectedly would think that Malacañang is very much involved in, though it is trying to distance itself from, the operation to free Napoles via the witness protection route.
How could they not suspect when Napoles’s lawyer got a tutorial on how to navigate the judicial waters from no less than its top Palace officials?