Ombudsman: Napoles will not become state witness

MANILA, Philippines – Janet Lim Napoles will not become a state witness in the pork barrel scam case, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Tuesday, May 16.

"As [far as] the prosecution is concerned, she is one of the principal alleged malefactors. We don't find her to be a candidate for being state witness," Morales told reporters in a chance interview at the 29th founding anniversary of the Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday.

If a motion is filed to make Napoles a state witness, Morales said the Ombudsman "will block any attempt to make her state witness."

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had floated the possibility of turning Napoles into a state witness in the pork barrel scam cases, which he wants to reinvestigate. 

But as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Aguirre's only power is to admit Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP), which is not the same as being a state witness who is immune from suit. (READ: FACT CHECK: What can Aguirre's DOJ do in the Napoles case?)

"We will have the last say on whether or not we will recommend her as state witness," Morales said.

Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedures states that it is the court that decides who gets to be state witness "upon the motion of the prosecution before resting its case." Simply put, it is the body that prosecuted the case which gets to recommend to the court that someone is qualified as state witness.

In Napoles' case, it is the Office of the Ombudsman that will recommend to the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan will then make the final decision.

"The cases we filed in the Sandiganbayan are cases over which the Sandiganbayan has exclusive authority; jurisdiction," Morales said.

Aguirre has been holding "exploratory talks" with Napoles' lawyers on the DOJ's reinvestigation of the pork barrel scam. Aguirre has said in media interviews that there is a solid case for turning Napoles into a state witness.

In a news briefing on May 10, Aguirre had claimed that in the pork barrel scam case, "it will be the government official who will be considered as the most guilty, because he is taking advantage of his public position."

"Kung merong equal liability si Janet, then 'yung public official 'yung most guilty (If there is equal liability, then the public official is the most guilty)," Aguirre said then.

Napoles was recently acquitted of serious illegal detention that set in motion her jail transfer. The Sandiganbayan's 1st and 3rd Divisions rejected Napoles' request to be transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) custodial center.

Napoles was instead transferred to the regular Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Taguig early Tuesday morning. – Rappler.com

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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