After the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles on illegal detention charges, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering making her a state witness in the pork barrel scam, as it reinvestigates the case.
An estimated P10 billion ($200 million) in government funds was allegedly stolen through the pork barrel scam. Napoles was accused of colluding with lawmakers, to channel development assistance funds for their constituents into her bogus non-governmental organizations, in exchange for hefty kickbacks. The scam is known as one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent Philippine history.
Napoles is currently detained on plunder charges, in addition to malversation, graft, and direct bribery, for allegedly being the mastermind of the scam. Making her a state witness would be equivalent to an acquittal.
To be able to qualify for state witness, an individual must not appear to be the most guilty in the commission of the crime. There must be absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused, such that there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, apart from the testimony of the person. (READ: FAQ: On becoming a state witness)
Given these requirements, Napoles cannot, and should not be a state witness.
The center of it all
I have pored through every single page of witness testimonies, and Napoles has convincingly been accused of being the mastermind of the multibillion-peso scam, backed by documentary evidence.
This woman set up the fake NGOs that were used to pocket taxpayers’ money, funds that should’ve been for development projects, typhoon victims, and poor farmers. This woman ordered employees to forge thousands of signatures and pose as beneficiaries of government projects. This woman consistently lied to the public, denied any wrongdoing, evaded taxes, and kept the scam going for 10 years. This woman shredded receipts and documents in the days leading to her investigation.
Do not forget that this woman first stole from the military, bribed a judge to drop the case, then set her sights on the bigger Priority Development Assistance Fund. This woman, with the money she stole, bought properties here and abroad, lived like a queen, and settled down in a penthouse in Pacific Place at the expense of her countrymen. This woman consciously and deliberately planned, in arresting detail, to take the money of the Filipino people, and enriched herself with it.
Napoles cannot be a state witness because she was among, if not the most guilty. She was central to the commission of the crime, the tie that bound politicians to this scam. (READ: TIMELINE: Janet Napoles from scandal to testimony)
Fr Ranhilio Aquino, the dean of the San Beda College of Law, also pointed out that making Napoles a state witness is problematic because she herself testified several times in the Senate, where she consistently denied her participation in the scam. If she were to reverse her testimony, she would open herself to perjury and wrongful testimony charges.
How can the courts trust a woman who has shown neither guilt nor admission of the crime? A woman who initially denied her involvement, then later issued an ever evolving list of politicians involved in the scam, with no supporting evidence?
Aside from Napoles, 3 senators were put in jail on convincing evidence for their participation in the scam – all without needing her testimony. Napoles’ right-hand Benhur Luy, and the other whistle-blowers who were members of Napoles’ staff, have consistently provided credible testimony and evidence, enough to charge Napoles herself, and these lawmakers. They know enough, and are already state witnesses. Is Napoles’ testimony truly necessary?
Not a single cent more
If Napoles were to become a state witness, she would receive benefits from the government, again, with taxpayers’ money.
These benefits include security protection and escort services, a secure housing facility, assistance in obtaining a means of livelihood, reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance while acting as a witness, free medical treatment, hospitalization, and medicine for any injury or illness incurred or suffered while acting as a witness, payment of full salary or wage while acting as a witness, and free education from primary to college level for the minor or dependent children of a witness who dies or is permanently incapacitated.
She deserves not a single cent more of the Filipinos’ money.
If she were to be acquitted, it would be a staggering injustice, an indication that graft and plunder in this country remain to be escapable. By all means, reopen the investigation and pursue those who still need to be charged for the massive robbery of government coffers. Convict the public officials who betrayed the trust of the people – regardless of alliances or political affiliation. Let them rot in jail. Let no one get away.
But don’t let Napoles get away either. – Rappler.com