One more try for Napoles in Senate plea

MANILA, Philippines – Will the Ombudsman agree this time?

Senate President Franklin Drilon once again sought the advice of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales regarding the appearance before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

On Thursday, September 26, Drilon sent the Ombudsman's Office a copy of Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III's letter asking the Senate President to reconsider signing a subpoena for Napoles.

“Please be informed that we have deferred any action on the aforementioned request on account of your advice in your letter dated 23 September 2013, wherein you expressed the opinion that compelling Mrs Napoles to testify before the Committee, at this time, would not be advisable,” he said in the letter. 

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier invoked the confidentiality rule of her office when she told Drilon that Napoles’ Senate testimony may “adversely affect” the disposition of the plunder complaint.

“What is at stake here is the ability of the Office of the Ombudsman to prosecute the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] misuse cases against Napoles with dispatch and without delay. This is the principal goal of our justice system,” Drilon said.

Guingona earlier said Morales did not prohibit the Senate from calling Janet Lim-Napoles. He also said the Senate is independent from the Ombudsman and is not bound by its advice. 

Unpopular decision

Senators are divided on Drilon's decision, but he maintained the Ombudsman's opinion “must not be underestimated or neglected.”

Drilon said, “We consider it a matter of prime importance that we should allow the Ombudsman to complete its initial fact-finding evaluation of the plunder case filed before it in connection with the pork barrel scam.”

He added that his “unpopular” decision sides with prudence and caution. 

Critics have said Drilon may be trying to shield himself from more disclosures from Napoles herself. He earlier decried what he called efforts to implicate him as being "guilty by association" with Napoles — as seen in their photos together. Drilon said, "You will not see a single peso of my PDAF being assigned to a single Napoles NGO.”

Guingona has insisted it is important for Napoles to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee, considering that the other whistleblowers have already appeared and disclosed what they knew about the PDAF operations. He also said that in previous years, she managed to escape appearing before the Blue Ribbon Committee when it was probing the fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo administration. 

Drilon — who, according to those who know him, could be obstinate — however, said in an earlier press statement, "While my decision appears unpopular to media and a public eager to see Napoles grilled by the Blue Ribbon Committee, I have decided on the side of caution. I would rather err on the side of prudence." -