MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday expressed alarm over the admission of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
On Friday, a document from the Justice Department dated February 27 showed that Napoles was "provisionally covered" as a state witness.
"Napoles is no different from a karaoke club regular. She will sing anything she is asked to. This is why she was never seriously considered as a state witness by the Aquino Administration," De Lima, who served as Justice Secretary under former president Benigno Aquino III, said in a statement.
"Her first question to us then was 'Sino ba ang gusto ninyong isama? (Who do you want me to implicate?)'", De Lima said.
De Lima said it was apparent then that Napoles "will say anything to get herself off the hook."
"She is indeed the ideal witness for a crooked administration, to use against its critics and vocal dissenters. Napoles will parrot anything," said the opposition senator, who has been held on drug charges she has decried as political persecution.
De Lima also warned against possible "legal calisthenics" that may be done to allow Napoles to testify against dissenters.
"They already took the first step in the exoneration of the mastermind of the PDAF scam. Soon they will be using her to testify against the opposition," De Lima alleged.
Other lawmakers shared De Lima's observation that Napoles could be "weaponized for blackmail" against critics of the administration.
“Isang tingin natin dito ay baka ginagamit itong paglagay sa kaniya sa WPP para i-weaponize siya, gawin siyang political weapon to run after the critics of the present administration," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, in a statement, said Napoles' admission into the WPP "is a mockery of the justice system."
"Napoles is disqualified from admission into the WPP because as mastermind, she appears to be the most guilty... Since Napoles is indicted as the brains in various plunder cases consequent to the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam, she does not qualify to become a state witness," he said Saturday.
The idea of Napoles turning state witness was first raised by President Rodrigo Duterte in a press briefing in August 2016.
"Wait until we revisit the Napoles case, Secretary or Senator De Lima, and I assure you, you will be horrified," Duterte said.
The Court of Appeals junked the serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy against Napoles, but the alleged pork barrel scam queen remains behind bars as plunder cases against her are still being held at the Sandiganbayan.