But Ombudsman says it won't affect pending cases
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the multibillion-peso scam that used lawmakers' pork barrel funds, has been provisionally admitted to the witness protection program, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Friday.
Under the program, the DOJ can provide additional security and, as warranted, address Napoles' medical needs if requested, said Usec. Erickson Balmes.
A document from the agency said Napoles has been "provisionally covered" by the program since February 27.
The certification was signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Nerissa Molina-Carpio and was submitted by Napoles' counsel to the Sandiganbayan. Napoles' lawyers subsequently requested her transfer to the custody of the DOJ.
Napoles' legal counsel Stephen David said the businesswoman has valuable information to offer the government as she is allegedly "the pork barrel queen."
"Well, as you very well know, everyone considers her as the queen daw, although we strongly dispute that allegation, but if that’s the case, she must be aware or she must know every detail or every transaction that passed insofar as the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) is concerned. So should [she] not be qualified to tell the Filipino people the truth concerning this matter?," David told ANC.
"If the media itself is considering her as the pork barrel queen, then she should be much knowledgeable of the fact, of who are the people involved. And in the interest of truth and justice, the Filipino people should know this."
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, whose office filed plunder and graft charges against Napoles and several lawmakers, said the decision by the DOJ "has no effect on the cases under trial in court."
David responded by saying the Ombudsman is "entitled to her own opinion."
"Probably she knows what she’s saying, but what we are saying is the DOJ has a different opinion with the present Ombudsman who will be Ombudsman until July," he said.
Lawyer Levito Baligod, former legal counsel of PDAF scam whistleblowers, called the move as " lacking in perspicacity."
"Napoles already admitted under oath during the Senate hearings that she has no knowledge about or 'involvement' in the PDAF scam; how can she now be of any use to the State as witness? Those to be sued under Napoles' testimony will just be too happy to have her as an adverse witness because they can easily destroy her credibility," he said.
The charges were in connection with the billions worth of PDAF funneled to non-existent projects by bogus non-government organizations linked to Napoles.
She had earlier come out with her own list of lawmakers and other individuals she accused of being involved in the scam, but only some have been indicted.
The Palace in January said Napoles, a "central figure" in the controversy, should be allowed to speak after she claimed she gave a campaign donation worth P5 million to opposition leader Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
- with reports from Johnson Manabat, Joyce Balancio and Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News