MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday refused to say whether alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles may be admitted as a state witness in the wake of her acquittal in her illegal detention case.
“As to the question of whether she could not be utilized as a state witness, there’s a law which says that one of the requirements is [that] she appears to be the least guilty,” Duterte told reporters prior to his departure for Cambodia.
The president, a former prosecutor, however, refused to say whether Napoles was the least guilty from his point of view.
“It is pending in court. We lawyers have always advised never to comment. Lalo na ako na president, I will be liable for contempt. I might be arrested,” he said.
Even as he refused to weigh in on Napoles’ admissibility as a state witness in the pork barrel scam cases, Duterte said the Court of Appeals was right in acquitting her in the serious illegal detention case filed by her second cousin, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
“She remains in prison. What she got was an acquittal on the illegal detention (case). Maski ako talaga, as a former prosecutor, I cannot think of how the person could be a victim of being hostaged when all the while he had all the opportunity to go out and never come back,” Duterte said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was quoted in a newspaper report today that the Department of Justice was considering making Napoles a state witness as the government reviewed pork barrel cases.
NAPOLES ‘MOST GUILTY’
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, who was justice chief when bulk of the pork barrel-related cases against Napoles were filed, said the businesswoman could not be made a state witness as she was the “most guilty.”
De Lima also said Napoles was not credible. She said that, during her stint as justice chief, prosecutors asked Napoles to identify more legislators linked to the pork barrel scam case. But she said the businesswoman “asked us instead who among the senators and congressmen we wanted included in her PDAF list of clients.”
“That is when I knew that Napoles cannot be relied upon and is only too willing to fabricate her own testimony to save her skin at the expense of innocent senators and congressmen,” De Lima said in a dispatch released on Tuesday.
De Lima also feared that Napoles would be used by the Duterte administration to “blackmail and threaten any remaining opposition in Congress.”
Palace officials have denied that Duterte and Napoles have reached a “sweetheart deal” because of her acquittal in the Luy detention case.
De Lima said any evidence that may extracted from Napoles would likely be concocted, which is why the previous government relied on Luy’s testimonies and documentary evidence to indict various lawmakers and government officials.
“Her extended list of PDAF Scam legislators turned out to be a product of her imagination, without any documented evidence or credible and verifiable accounts of the transactions to support the same. What we found as credible and reliable are the testimonies, with supporting documents, of Benhur Luy and the other whistleblowers,” she said.