Stephen David using Palace connections for Napoles?

Lian Buan

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Stephen David using Palace connections for Napoles?
'[Medialdea] was asked by Atty David if he could overrule me, he said he could not, because he is of the same opinion as mine,' Aguirre says, referring to his opinion about the need for the Sandiganbayan's nod to transfer Napoles to a safehouse

MANILA, Philippines – Napoles lawyer Stephen David is a frequent visitor to Malacañang and appears to have easy access to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

“Two to three weeks ago,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he and Medialdea were joined by David, who wanted to transfer his client from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to a safehouse. This was after Aguirre granted provisional state protection to Napoles.

Aguirre advised against it, saying a jail transfer must have the permission of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, which is handling the non-bailable plunder charges against her. David wanted to overrule him, so he went to Medialdea.

“[Medialdea] was asked by Atty David if he could overrule me, he said he could not, because he is of the same opinion as mine,” Aguirre said.

“[David] would say that because I am under the Office of the President as a department secretary, he could appeal my opinion to the Executive Secretary,” Aguirre said.

Medialdea denies giving David “advice.”

“Why would I give legal advice to a lawyer for his client? If I were his client I will fire him,” Medialdea said.

David went on to file 3 motions before the Sandiganbayan, as what the Executive Secretary had told him.

Aguirre defended Medialdea, saying, “It’s not giving legal advice, he’s giving his opinion.” 

Asked how David, a private lawyer, got to meet with the Executive Secretary and the Justice Secretary inside Malacañang, Aguirre said: Hindi nga meeting ‘yun eh, actually nakatindig lang kami, may meeting kaming iba pero dumating itong [si David] hindi naman namin alam na darating ‘yan eh…I think bigla na lang siyang dumating, malimit naman ‘yan sa kuwan eh, since the beginning, malimit naman ‘yan sa Palasyo,” Aguirre said.

(That wasn’t even a meeting, we were just standing, we had a different meeting then David arrived. We didn’t know he was coming, he just arrived, and he’s often..since the beginning, he’s often inside the Palace.) 

Watch Aguirre’s press conference on the Napoles issue here in this video starting at 41:10:

David inside Malacañang

Indeed, David has been spotted in numerous Malacañang events. 

On his Facebook account, he posted photos of him with President Rodrigo Duterte.

David and Duterte come from San Beda Law School, which also produced Medialdea and Aguirre. 

David said he was close to Duterte “long long time ago, years, several years ago.”

In 2016, Duterte appointed David’s wife Lanee deputy commissioner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

David said he has never discussed the Napoles case with Duterte. “No, I don’t talk to him about this matter,” he said.

Aguirre said: “I believe that when the President was asked about this, sinabi niya ay bahala na si Vit diyan so ako na ang talagang nag-manage niyang process na ‘yan (he said leave it to Vit so I was the one who really managed this process), one of which is I extended a provisional coverage.”

FRIENDS? Janet Napoles' lawyer Stephen David says he was close to President Rodrigo Duterte 'long, long time ago.' Photos from Stephen David's Facebook page

Napoles case

Part of Aguirre’s “managing” was meeting with Napoles herself.

“Two months ago….nagharap kami, sinabi niya sa akin I am going to tell all lahat ng may kinasasangkutan dito, sasabihin kong lahat ‘yan,” Aguirre said.

(Two months ago, we met, she told me I am going to tell on everyone who was involved, I will say everything.)

Aguirre and David have kept close contact over the last year. David was Aguirre’s source when he announced to the media that Napoles had tagged opposition senators Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, and Antonio Trillanes IV in the pork barrel scam.

Aguirre also said he lent his copy of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) from several years to David for a reinvestigation that would target the opposition, and correct the supposed “selective justice” of the De Lima-led investigation.

Out of the loop, however, is Levito Baligod, who used to be the lawyer of state witness Benhur Luy. Believing too that De Lima “engaged in selective justice,” Baligod filed his own complaints against several legislators, 17 of whom belong to the Liberal Party.

Baligod used documents and testimonies he had gathered since he took on the pork barrel scam case. But he said he was never involved in the Department of Justice (DOJ) reinvestigation.

Baligod said a reinvestigation can prosper without Napoles.

“The government already has all the information that she can give. What [more] is there to say? And, for practical reasons, she cannot be an effective witness because her reputation for truthfulness is very bad,” he said.

Existing cases

But Aguirre made it clear now, as the rules also state, that Napoles’ already existing plunder cases will not be affected by the DOJ movements.

David, for his part, said: “There are options… Puwede, puwede ring plea bargaining… Marami. Marami. (We can also go for a plea bargain agreement. There are many options, many.)”

A plea bargain agreement, or turning Napoles into a state witness in the already existing cases so she can be cleared, is something that only the Office of the Ombudsman can start.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said those will never happen under her.

Morales leaves the post in July. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.