De Lima says it would be an 'abdication' of her 'duty as a truth-seeker' not to listen to Napoles
MANILA, Philippines – While certain lawmakers and whistleblowers’ lawyers have questioned the credibility of Janet Napoles’ testimony, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima would rather suspend judgment until further evaluation.
“Bakit tayo mag-iisip ng masama? Ito na yung hinihintay natin. Sino ba ang ayaw pakinggan yung isang tao na sinasabing maraming alam diyan sa usapin na yan? Sino ba ang ayaw? Maari yung mga tatamaan,” De Lima said in a chance interview Wednesday, April 23.
(Why will we think ill [of her testimony]? This is what we have been waiting for. Who doesn’t want to listen to a person said to be knowledgeable about the [pork barrel scam] issue? Who doesn’t want that? Perhaps those who will be implicated.)
De Lima said it would be an “abdication” of her “duty as a truth-seeker” not to listen to Napoles.
“Ang importante pinapakinggan siya. (What’s important is we’re listening to her),” she said, adding that any doubts and speculation at this point would be premature.
“But I cannot be assuring everyone na totoo o buong katotohanan ang sinasabi niya. Di naman ako ang Diyos na makakapagsabi noon,” De Lima added.
(But I cannot be assuring everyone that Napoles is telling the truth or the whole truth. I am not God to be able to judge that.)
No demand to be state witness
On Monday, April 21, Napoles met with de Lima, promising to tell everything she knows about the siphoning of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). De Lima said she is “not closing the door” to Napoles’ application as a state witness, given her testimony.
Napoles is the alleged mastermind behind the controversial multi-million-peso pork barrel scam, a scheme that channeled lawmakers’ PDAF to ghost projects of bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with her. On paper, her NGOs served as PDAF beneficiaries.
The scam was exposed by principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, who was rescued by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in March 2013. Luy was allegedly illegally detained by Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim.
Napoles now faces plunder charges over the PDAF scam, an illegal detention case involving Luy, and a property forfeiture case over the assets she allegedly acquired through the scam.
If admitted as state witness, she will be immune from criminal prosecution only on the plunder case over the illegal siphoning of lawmakers’ PDAF. (READ: ‘Security threats drove Napoles to apply as state witness’)
Napoles’ lawyer Bruce Rivera has, however, denied any demand by Napoles to become a state witness.
De Lima on Wednesday affirmed Rivera’s claim: “One thing is clear: Di naman niya talaga dinemand as a precondition for her telling a story na maging state witness siya (She didn’t really demand as a precondition to her telling a story her being a state witness).“
The justice secretary assured the public that Napoles’ testimony will have to be validated by other sources. She said “truth-seeking” will be the focus of the DOJ’s evaluation of the list of names implicated by Napoles and the affidavit she submitted to De Lima during their 5-hour meeting at Napoles’ hospital room.
Even Malacañang reiterated a day earlier that Napoles’ testimony is still subject to evaluation but considered it “a significant development in our quest to find the truth.”
De Lima also gave assurances that additional sessions with Napoles will be conducted by her team to verify Napoles’ statements. De Lima was accompanied by NBI agents and DOJ Undersecretary Jose Justiniano during her meeting with Napoles.
More than just securing convictions
In a press conference Tuesday, the justice secretary said Napoles implicated more individuals in the pork barrel scam but refused to provide names.
With Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada already facing plunder charges in relation to the scam, De Lima confirmed that the 3 were included in Napoles’ list.
De Lima said there were also others named by Napoles who were conducting a similar fund diversion scheme like hers. “There were really a lot of details,” De Lima said, without explaining further.
Even without Napoles’ testimony, De Lima is confident the DOJ can secure convictions in relation to the scam.
She said Wednesday that Napoles’ testimony is not just meant to help in the prosecution of accused individuals, but to draw the complete picture behind the scam.
De Lima has included as one of her conditions in meeting with Napoles her telling the whole truth and providing names involved in the scam, regardless of their political loyalties.
De Lima said Wednesday she will never “manipulate that list,” as it would be “a betrayal of public trust.” – Rappler.com