MANILA – Is alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles qualified to be a state witness? Lawyer Raymond Fortun says it’s impossible.
On ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday, Fortun said Napoles cannot become state witness because she is the most guilty in the scam.
“The requirement under Section 17, Rule 190 of the Rules of Court is that the witness applying must not be the most guilty. In this particular instance, and this is my perception, she is the most guilty; she is the mastermind of this.”
He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s meeting with Napoles is questionable as there are already enough pieces of evidence in the case, including the testimonies of the state witnesses and the supposed recipients of the pork barrel funds plus the Commission on Audit report.
“There’s already been a finding by the Ombudsman and the finding is to prosecute her for plunder. Now, for the justice secretary to now speak with the principal suspect before even the start of trial, this creates a lot of questions on the minds of the public as to why this move is being done at this time.
“There have been a lot of efforts already made: we saw truckloads of evidence already submitted. The Justice Department itself believed, when they filed the complaint, that they have enough evidence to prosecute.”
Fortun added that Napoles can easily be impeached as a state witness. He said Napoles has no credibility after denying her involvement in the scam during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.
“She earlier said during the Senate Blue Ribon Committee hearing that wala siyang alam, wala siya matandaan, and so forth. She has zero credibility at this stage. For her now to say that she will tell all, as I said, if I were the Justice Secretary, I would not even bother to consider her for any kind of testimony because when I got to court and I present her, there are just so many loopholes that can be hit on her.”
Moreover, he said, should Napoles really become a state witness, she could be prosecuted for allegedly providing false testimony while under oath.
“During that [Senate] hearing, she vowed to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. So which is which now? She even actually opens herself up to criminal prosecution for rendering false testimony in the Senate if she decides to go and become a state witness.”
Agreeing with Fortun’s sentiment is San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, who said that it would be difficult to reconcile Napoles’ present and previous testimonies.
“Nag-execute na siya ng detalyadong affidavit kung saan niya iginigiit ‘yung mga ibang tao. My only problem is, that affidavit will not be easy to reconcile with her testimony before the Senate which was also under oath. That makes her liable to perjury and willingly rendering false testimony,” he told radio DZMM on Wednesday.
Aquino also revealed that Napoles’ application to become state witness can cause delays in the pork barrel scam case.
“If an application was made by the Ombudsman to discharge Napoles as state witness, you can imagine that the defense will file oppositions there too. And then motion versus opposition; papakinggan ng husgado na naman ‘yan, magre-resolve ang husgado. And then there are post-resolution remedies. It really has the potential to delay the case.”
‘LAWMAKERS ARE VICTIMS’
Meanwhile, Fortun claimed that although the lawmakers who were involved in the pork barrel scam may be just as equally guilty, they should also be seen as victims of Napoles’ scheme.
He said that the number of lawmakers involved in the scam alone proves that someone else initiated and orchestrated the crime.
“I don’t believe the senators would be masterminding this. The number of legislators alone would clearly show that all of them were really just [participants]…The bottomline is, someone initiated it, someone hatched up the scheme, and all the others were just followers; they allowed themselves to be used.”
Fortun also said the corrupt pork barrel system was already in place in the both houses of Congress nearly 20 years ago. He cited the exposé of the late Congressman Romeo Candazo in the 1990s.
“This thing has been happening since 1997. Ever since the revelation of the late Congressman Romeo Candazo, you will notice that there is already a scheme to utilize PDAF as a way in order to earn money. You have operators, people who would approach legislators in order to give them a cut from whatever projects that they will come out. The senators and the congressmen are not the masterminds.”