Guevarra: New Napoles confessions won’t affect her plunder cases

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday, June 1, that any new confessions from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles will not affect her plunder cases before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

“Any new cases will not have any impact on those already being tried by the Sandiganbayan,” Guevarra said in a text message on Friday. 

The new justice chief's position is different from his predecessor,  Vitaliano Aguirre II, who said in March that he sees a “defect” in Napoles' cases before the Sandiganbayan. Aguirre based his opinion on the possibility that Napoles may not be the most guilty in the pork barrel scam. (READ: Will Napoles be state witness? Spotlight on the Special Prosecutor)

Guevarra said the Napoles camp had yet to reached out to him since he took over the Department of Justice (DOJ) in April. This, too, is a marked difference from Aguirre because the resigned justice secretary worked very closely with Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David.

Aguirre even personally met Napoles inside her jail cell at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

New direction

Guevarra’s entry into the DOJ seemed to have scuttled David’s plans for his client.

It started when Guevarra terminated  the Witness Protection Program (WPP) coverage of Napoles, to the disappointment of David. Days later, David said Napoles was still willing to confess the rest of what she knew in the scam.

“It is up to her if she would like to initiate a complaint even if she's out of WPP protection,” Guevarra said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, whose actions resulted in the acquittal of Napoles in her serious illegal detention case last year, said the government should listen to Napoles. 

"If Janet Napoles has evidence to link other recipients of the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), why don't we listen to her?” Calida said in a recent interview on CNN Philippines.

In January 2017, Calida submitted a manifestation to the Court of Appeals recommending Napoles' acquittal in the illegal detention case filed by pork barrel scam star witness Benhur Luy, which the court granted in May of that year.

The pork scam reinvestigation under targets allies of the Aquino administration. Lawyer Levito Baligod, who used to represent Luy, said cases against Liberal Party lawmakers are already pending before the Office of the Ombudsman so Napoles' testimony was no longer needed.

"That is why there is no need for Janet Napoles because cases can prosper even without her as witness,” Baligod

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.