MANILA, Philippines - Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles may settle for something less than immunity from prosecution, but she wants her children to be spared, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Contrary to published reports, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam is not imposing an “immunity or nothing” condition in exchange for her testimony in the scam, De Lima told The STAR the other night.
“But she’s a mother and she has one request: don’t touch her children,” De Lima said.
There are no specifics on what sparing the children might entail. But De Lima said the children are likely to be indicted only for graft instead of plunder. A graft complaint will allow the children to post bail.
Napoles’ children Jo Christine and James Christopher allegedly forged the signatures of ghost beneficiaries of the Malampaya Fund and liquidated documents in the scam.
Principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy reportedly said that when Napoles was not at their home at the Pacific Plaza Tower in Taguig, it was Jo Christine who received the funds that were funneled to bogus non-government organizations.
The youngest daughter, Jeane, faces charges of tax evasion after she emerged as the owner of a pricey condominium unit in Los Angeles, California although she has no visible source of income.
Jeane, who is studying in the US, will reportedly not be charged with plunder since she is a mere recipient of the unit.
Napoles has formally applied for immunity in exchange for her testimony, which De Lima is still evaluating.
The National Bureau of Investigation is verifying the contents of a hard drive provided by the Napoles camp, listing lawmakers and other officials allegedly involved in the pork barrel and Malampaya Fund scams.
President Aquino has said Napoles may be unfit to turn state witness since she did not appear to be the least guilty.
De Lima reiterated that she agreed to meet with Napoles on three conditions: that the businesswoman would tell the entire unvarnished truth, that no conditions would be attached to the tell-all, and there would be no guarantee that the proffered testimony would be accepted.
Napoles has been charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel and Malampaya scams.
De Lima said that instead of immunity, Napoles may negotiate to plead guilty to a lesser offense. A plunder conviction can send her to prison for life, or a maximum of 40 years.
Return to police camp deferred
Yesterday the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 deferred Napoles’ transfer from the Ospital ng Makati (Osmak) to her detention cell at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna after one of her doctors testified that she experienced a “significant amount” of vaginal bleeding following her surgery last month.
Napoles underwent surgery on April 23 to remove her uterus and two ovaries. She was supposed to be returned to the police camp last night.
But her gynecologist Efren Domingo testified in court yesterday that Napoles started bleeding on May 17 and was referred to him by the Osmak on May 19.
The bleeding was so copious it soaked her jogging pants, Domingo told the court, adding that stress, diabetes and sleeplessness could have been the cause.
Sex caused bleeding?
Napoles was subjected to a digital pelvic examination by another gynecologist, Elsie Bandillo Pascua, on May 20 at Osmak.
Domingo ordered a complete bed rest for Napoles and gave her medicine to stop the bleeding. He also withdrew his order allowing Napoles to be discharged from the hospital.
When asked by Special Prosecutor Christopher Garvida if there were other factors that might have triggered the bleeding, Domingo said “private intimate contact” though not necessarily sexual contact was possible.
“She is human and she has her urges,” said Domingo.
He said he did not ask if Napoles had sex while in confinement.
The bleeding stopped on May 21. Domingo said Napoles could be discharged after seven to 10 straight days without bleeding.
“I could order her discharged on May 28,” Domingo said.
Osmak director summoned
RTC Judge Elmo Alameda has summoned Osmak medical director Perry Peralta and gynecologist Florentina Villanueva to appear in court on Monday in connection with Napoles’ request for a longer stay at the hospital.
The order was issued upon the motion of the prosecution.
Napoles’ lawyers also want all her post-surgery check-ups to be done at the Osmak.
Alameda had denied last Tuesday the urgent motion of Napoles for an extension of her hospital confinement.
The judge ordered the Philippine National Police to return Napoles to Fort Sto. Domingo.
'Not qualified as state witness'
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite said yesterday that Napoles would not qualify as a state witness and should not be given immunity from criminal prosecution.
Barzaga said Napoles, contrary to her claim, is the central figure and author of the pork barrel scam.
“Napoles and her agents were the ones who approached legislators and gave them cash advances, specifying to them which government agencies and corporations the Special Allotment Release Orders would be coursed through, and identifying the projects and their bogus foundations that would implement them,” Barzaga said.
“This profitable racket would not have flourished were it not for Ma’am Jenny, as she is called, her agents and her bogus foundations,” he said.
Barzaga, a practicing lawyer-accountant before seeking public office, has not given any part of his Priority Development Assistance Fund to Napoles or her bogus NGOs.
On Thursday, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III also said Napoles should not be spared from criminal prosecution.
“The Department of Justice should not accept her affidavit if it is conditioned on the grant of immunity or on any other privilege. She is in no position to set any condition for telling the nation how she perpetrated this multibillion-peso pork barrel scam,” Albano said. – Mike Frialde, Jess Diaz