MANILA, Philippines – Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago blazed through the Senate testimony of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, saying she was not the most guilty as she could not have led such a “far-flung empire.”
In a press briefing, Santiago pulled no punches when asked who the scam mastermind is, “Si Enrile! His paternity is unquestioned, his DNA confirmed.”
The senator turned her ire on her arch-enemy Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile as she grilled Napoles during a one-hour interpellation and a press briefing during the break from the hearing on Thursday, November 7.
Santiago asked Napoles to confirm if Enrile is the senator implicated in the scam and had the nickname, “Tanda” (old).
When Napoles said, “I don’t know,” Santiago lectured her about the difference between her answer and invoking the right against self-incrimination. The senator said invoking the right is similar to saying, “I know but I don’t want to be implicated.”
“Sino pa bang matanda dito sa Senado kundi si Enrile? Sabi niya 89 siya pero baka 99 na siya kasi nagde-dementia siya lalo tungkol sa akin,” Santiago said. (Who is the old person here in the Senate, if not Enrile? He said he is 89 but he may be 99 because he suffers from dementia, especially when dealing with me.)
Napoles then changed her answer to, “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”
As early as July, Enrile denied receiving kickbacks for the use of his pork barrel, branding news reports about a scam as “obviously selective and incomplete.”
He also said then, “I have not received any bribe or in any way financially benefitted from nor in exchange for the utilization of my PDAF.” Enrile’s lawyer Enrique dela Cruz had defended his client, saying that no direct link has been established between the former Senate President and the alleged kickbacks.
Not the most guilty
Santiago told Napoles she could not have been the most guilty among the accused because she did not have the “sophistication” to run such an elaborate scheme given her humble origins. She urged her to tell all and turn state witness.
“The empire is too big and wide for Napoles to be able to convince a senator to give her his PDAF on her own. The most guilty is the group of officials: senators and congressmen or executive officials or both. ‘Di maglalakas loob si Napoles kung wala,” Santiago said. (Napoles would not have the gall to participate in the scheme if she did not have their backing.)
Santiago said, “Enrile, his whole career he was with the military. He was Secretary of Defense during martial law so his attitude is like that. He treats us like his moral, intellectual slaves.”
Enrile – along with Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada – faces a plunder complaint for allegedly channeling their pork barrel funds to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
In her press conference, Santiago also named Revilla as the “Pogi” senator “because he is an actor” and Estrada as “Sexy” “because he had liposuction.”
Villa, Osmeña also under fire
The senator also trained her guns at Local Water Utilities Administration Chairman Rene Villa, who was present in the hearing. An ally of the administration and Senate President Franklin Drilon, Villa had admitted lawyering for Napoles when he was out of government.
Santiago questioned Villa’s credentials to represent Napoles in her alleged business dealings abroad. As a former student of international trade law, Santiago said the qualifications of her fellow Ilonggo politician were unimpressive.
“Kumuha ba ng masters iyan sa law? (Did he take up masters in law?) He worked for Jeddah [and other countries]. He’s just an OFW masquerading as an international trade lawyer,” Santiago said.
In urging Napoles to turn state witness, Santiago also took a swipe at Sen Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III. Initially refusing to name him, Santiago said the senator erroneously said the Senate can grant Napoles immunity. She said this senator then made personal attacks against her after she expressed a contrary legal view.
Santiago later admitted the senator was Osmeña, who even said that the Senate would be a circus if she shows up.
“Inggit lang siya. May doctorate ako. Siya, ‘di nakatapos ng college.”
‘Tell all before senators assassinate you’
Saying she did not get much out of Napoles’ answers, Santiago gave her unsolicited legal advice.
“Tell the truth before the senators have you assassinated,” said Santiago.
Santiago said Napoles can avail herself of perpetuation of testimony so she can already give her side even before the court hearing. She said if Napoles does not reveal the names of the officials and turn state witness, she could be convicted of plunder, spend 20 to 40 years in jail or worse, get killed.
“Kung ayaw mong ikaw ang most guilty, dapat ngayon pa lang sabihin mo sino ang most guilty. Ang taong yan, nakikinig, ang daming pera.” (If you do not want to be the most guilty, as early as now, you should say who is most guilty. That person is listening. He has lots of money.)
“You will not escape punishment unless you turn state witness. Plunder is punishable by 20 to 40 years imprisonment. Ninety ka na paglabas mo, kasing-tanda mo na si Tanda. Pinoproteksyunan mo ang tao na siya ang pinaka-guilty.”
(You will turn 90 and be as old as Tanda. You are protecting him when he is the most guilty.)
Santiago asked Napoles to think long and hard about her advice, saying she is in jail while senators, congressmen, and Cabinet members have yet to be affected by the scam and still have excessive wealth.
‘Stupid is forever’
Amid Napoles’ denials, Santiago asked her about her religious ties, being close to the former parish priest of Quiapo.
“Are you aware of the commandment, ‘You shall not steal? You shall not tell a lie? What kind of a Catholic are you?”
After the hearing, Santiago said Napoles was “beyond evasive” and “totally distant.” She concluded that by saying she does not know anything, Napoles was hiding something. “I know the social media crowd will get it because they are intelligent.”
Santiago said the public must not lose sight of an important lesson.
“Pork barrel has become the raison d’etre of lawmakers for running for office, which has nothing to do with legislation.”
She added, “Pork barrel is a system breaking down irreversibly. This is a systems breakdown, a meltdown. ‘Di na pwede ang pork barrel.” (We cannot retain the pork barrel anymore.)
Santiago said Napoles’ answers coupled with her facial expressions and behavior were revealing.
“Ignorance can be treated but stupid is forever. Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope this is a case of ignorance.” – Rappler.com