Napoles not demanding to be state witness – lawyer
MANILA, Philippines – Alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles is reportedly not demanding to be made state witness in exchange for her testimony on the case, her lawyer said on Wednesday, April 23.
Bruce Rivera, the lawyer of Napoles, said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart that when Napoles met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday, the businesswoman made no preconditions for her sudden willingness to “tell all” she knows about the pork barrel scam.
“First of all, it’s even false to assume that she wants to be state witness because the testimony, or what she told Secretary De Lima, it was purely a proper testimony. There were really no conditions as to what she wants to happen,” Rivera said.
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On Tuesday, De Lima said in a news conference that Napoles had told her that she wants to be state witness in the pork barrel scam case but the government cannot guarantee it, depending on the contents of her affidavit.
The Office of the Ombudsman is set to file plunder charges against the businesswoman and 9 others – including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr – before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in the scam that funneled public funds to bogus non-governmental organizations.
Asked why Napoles decided to execute the affidavit if she was not interested in turning state witness, Rivera explained that when his client asked him to set up a meeting between her and the justice secretary, she just wanted to give “her side of the story.”
“What we told Secretary De Lima is this: ‘This is her testimony, do what you want to do with it. If you find it sufficient, then it’s your discretion.’ We left it to the discretion of the DOJ and the Ombudsman. We never asked for her to be state witness, to be under the Witness Protection Program. We never did that. And Secretary De Lima can attest to that,” he said.
Words of a sick woman
Rivera said Napoles is sick and due to undergo a major surgery when she spoke with De Lima.
“Clearly, if you are sick, there is an operation, a person can just say something. If she wants to talk, then it’s her prerogative. I, for one, as a lawyer, I told her, you cannot expect any conditions. If you want to say something, say it. And that’s the condition for the two of them to be meeting. In fact, it was very clear,” he said.
Asked if he, as Napoles’ lawyer, would want his client to be a state witness, Rivera said, “Well if the DOJ and the Ombudsman finds it appropriate, then why not? But at this point I’m not even contemplating that. I told her they [DOJ] may accept it, they may find it fantastic, they may not find it credible – that’s it. But of course, at the end of the day, she just wants to ventilate her side and tell her story.”
He did not directly respond to questions on whether Napoles would be willing to return any of the P10 billion that she had allegedly amassed from the pork barrel scam, just saying that “it’s even presumptuous to say that she even earned P10 billion.”
Rivera also deemed as “false” reports that Napoles had implicated a total of 19 senators in her affidavit.
“That’s pure misinformation. The number 19 is false. That’s all I can say as her lawyer. I was the one who assisted her when she talked to Secretary De Lima and to the other personnel at the DOJ. I cannot divulge anymore than that. But the [report on the] 19 senators is false,” he said.
In another interview in the news program, Raymond Joseph Ian Mendoza, lawyer of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy expressed some reservations over the testimony of Napoles, whom his client has accused of illegal detention and has pinpointed as the scam mastermind.
Mendoza said lawyers of the pork scam whistlebowers met on Tuesday night to discuss the latest development which he said caught them all by “surprise.”
“We were clueless as to this outcome. We’ve been trying to seek an audience with the Honorable Secretary of Justice. We would like to clarify certain things with her regarding some issues and points on the purported testimony of Janet Napoles,” he said.
Mendoza said if Napoles is to become an ordinary or state witness in the pork barrel scam, the whistleblowers’ lawyers agreed that “she should not contradict what has already been laid down” by their clients in their testimonies at the Senate hearings, which were based on their affidavits.
“We feel that if she has something to say, tell us something new, something we don’t know or that was not taken up at Senate hearing because she was already under oath in the Senate hearing as pointed out by one of the counsels last night. We had a meeting with the other counsels. She was already under oath. Now, she comes with a testimony….Will that be credible?” he said.
Mendoza said when she testified at the Senate hearing, Napoles refused to divulge anything.
“Now comes her with this new piece of paper – 'I know everything' and she has the details. She is vulnerable to being impeached during trial. So if she becomes a witness, whatever kind of witness, we appeal to the DOJ that should be a witness to things that have not been laid out,” he said.
If she does not contradict the whistleblowers, Mendoza said, “ I think we can have a collaboration [with Mrs Napoles].”
If she does otherwise, the lawyer said it would be a case of who has more credibility – Napoles or the whistleblowers?
“If she becomes a witness, and starts staying, ‘I am not the mastermind, these [whistleblowers] are the masterminds, my supposed employees are the masterminds, how’s that? This is hypothetical – she might say, ‘I’m just a businesswoman. I just lent them money, they borrowed money from me.’ That’s questionable. What do we do then? Who is more credible?” Mendoza said.
The public had a glimpse of possibly contradicting testimonies of Napoles and the whistleblowers when both appeared at the Senate hearing in November. (READ: Napoles: I pity senators; Luy: She’s lying) – Rappler.com