MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “A family is a family.”
This is how senators argued against the request of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles for her children to be “spared” of charges in exchange for her testimony on the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Cynthia Villar and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should not entertain Napoles’ request because her children also played key roles in the scandal.
“A family is a family. Her family is most guilty because the family would know about that,” Villar said on Monday, May 26. “Those to be given immunity should be the least guilty. It’s hard to promise that and many people are against that.”
Villar pointed out that Napoles is now making the request after she lied to the Senate under oath in November 2013 that she knew nothing of the scam.
“When she came to Congress, she said she doesn’t know anything. Now, she is releasing a list. And I noticed with her list, she included people she doesn’t know while those she knows were not in her list. Maybe she is inventing this list to get the people she doesn’t know into trouble, and to save those she knows,” Villar added.
The senator was referring to the list of lawmakers and executive officials Napoles implicated in the scam. De Lima submitted this to the Senate on May 15, and is set to submit Napoles’ full affidavit on Monday.
Citing whistleblowers’ affidavits, Senator Aquino also said that Napoles’ children should not be granted immunity.
“How can her children be spared from this investigation when whistleblowers revealed that they were the ones forging the signatures of Malampaya fund ghost beneficiaries,” Aquino said in a statement.
“Testimonies show that they are major participants in this scheme and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and not be treated with kids’ gloves,” he added.
Cayetano also said before the justice department considers the request, it should first ensure that the whistleblowers like Benhur Luy get immunity.
“This will give the assurance to the whistleblowers that even if the administration changes and the ally of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile sits in office, the immunity of the whistleblowers will continue.”
“For Napoles and her children, I’d like to see the evidence before we talk about immunity,” he added.
Cayetano, Aquino and Villar are members of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is investigating the pork barrel scam.
Napoles faces plunder charges for allegedly conspiring with top officials to funnel lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
Her two children, Jo Christine Napoles and James Christoper Napoles, are her co-accused. They are charged with violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
What whistleblowers’ affidavits say
The sworn statements of Napoles’ aides-turned-whistleblowers detail the alleged involvement of her children.
In her affidavit dated September 12, 2013, whistleblower Merlina Suñas said Jo Christine and James Christopher had a direct hand in forging documents for the release of the P900 Malampaya fund, which was also siphoned off the Napoles NGOs.
Luy also said in his affidavit dated September 12, 2013 that Napoles and Jo Christine would check the vouchers that he prepares to facilitate the release of kickbacks to lawmakers.
Luy added that a bank account under Jo Christine’s name was a “beneficiary account” where Napoles would order her dollars to be transferred through people she was supposedly in touch with in the black market.
The principal whistleblower added that Jo Christine would receive money from the bank accounts of the NGOs on her mother’s behalf if the elder Napoles was not at their home.
‘Release affidavit, show basis’
Villar also opposed the request of De Lima for the Senate not to release Napoles’ affidavit, once it is submitted to the committee.
The Senate earlier decided to release the signed list of Napoles despite De Lima’s request for “prudence.”
Villar said that the affidavit should be released to detail the specific allegations against the officials, and to give them a chance to respond.
Her husband, former Senate President Manuel Villar Jr, was included in the signed Napoles list while she was part of the list that the Inquirer reported, based on the records of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
“Maybe [Secretary de Lima is making that request because they] cannot support the list because it’s not good for them to release the names without [supporting] documents. It’s unfair. So when the list is released, there should be support,” Villar said.
The senator added that the Senate cannot summon Napoles without having a copy of her affidavit. She said she too is considering filing libel charges against those who released the Napoles and Luy lists.
“Yes, I am ready to confront her but on what [charges]? Because she included you in the list? I want to see the circumstances of why she listed you because I really cannot remember anything. I do not know her. I did not transact with her.”
Committee vice chairman Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III said last week that he will advise chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III to release Napoles’ affidavit to the public in the spirit of transparency. – Rappler.com