MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Not that easy.
To Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former RTC judge, Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion pork barrel scam, can’t turn state witness just to escape prosecution.
In a press statement, Santiago listed 5 requirements for an accused to turn state witness, among them, not appearing to be the most guilty. Napoles, according to Santiago, “will find it extremely difficult to prove her claim that she is not the most guilty.”
Citing rules of court, Santiago listed the requirements as follows:
- The accused does not appear to be the most guilty
- There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested
- There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of the accused
- The accused has not at any time been investigated of any offense involving moral turpitude
- The testimony of the accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points
A Makati RTC had ordered her to be jailed in Makati City Jail.
Motion for discharge
If Napoles and her subordinatese are charged with plunder by the interagency antigraft coordinating council, similar charges will have to be filed against lawmakers identified by the media on the basis of affidavits executed by whistleblower Benjamin Luy.
Once charged in court, Napoles’ lawyer must file a motion for discharge to be a state witness, Santiago said. A hearing will have to be held to support the discharge and will require the prosecution to present evidence and sworn statements of witnesses.
“If the court denies the Napoles motion for discharge as state witness, her sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence,” Santiago said.
The court will have to consider several factors, including her actual participation in the commission of plunder and the gravity or nature of her acts compared to the other co-accused.
Santiago cited the 1983 landmark case of Flores v. Sandiganbayan where the High Court refused to discharge as state witness the accused who appeared to be the most guilty and who appeared to be the mastermind in the bank robbery. The crime was done in public and was witnessed by several persons.
“It appears that Napoles was the mastermind, so she is the most guilty. Further, it appears that many persons in her syndicate know of the conspiracy to plunder, so her discharge is not absolutely necessary,” Santiago said.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said he finds talks of Napoles becoming state witness “sickening.”
“I would like to congratulate the President for his assurance of due process. Ms. Napoles’ surrender is important. However, I find talks of her becoming a state witness sickening,” he said.
Cayetano said that it Napoles’ involvement in the 2004 fertilizer scam makes unethical to make her a state witness.
“We should get the testimony from her but not in exchange for becoming a state witness which is unnecessary. Otherwise, how will we hold accountable individuals abusing government funds if we will always offer this?” Cayetano asked.
Opposition lawmakers also fear that Malacañang will use Napoles as a weapon against political personalities not allied with the administration.
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Secretary General Toby Tiangco, for one, said that making Napoles a state witness could lead to the selective persecution of political enemies of the administration.
“Everyone knows that the stink of swine crap coming from the PDAF mess has reached Malacanang. Making Napoles as state witness may be seen as part of the strategy to divert the issue away from the allies of President Aquino, and many fear that the witch hunt may expand selectively to political enemies of the administration,” Tiangco said. – Rappler.com