Ombudsman to block plan to make Napoles state witness

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 16 2017 12:00 PM | Updated as of May 16 2017 12:33 PM

Members of the Bureau of Correction guide Janet Lim Napoles as she arrives at the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday. Napoles signed a pre-trial order in her case involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former APEC Party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - (UPDATED) The Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday said it will oppose moves to make businessman Janet Lim Napoles a state witness in the re-investigation of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales reasoned that Napoles is one of the principal benefactors in the scam , which funneled billions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers into the ghost projects of non-government organizations she allegedly set up.

"Certainly the Office of Special Prosecutor will block any attempt to make her state witness. It is the OSP which will consider whether or not she will be a state witness and it's going to be the court who will finally approve whether or not she is going to be state witness," Morales said in a media interview after attending the 29th anniversary event of the Office of the Ombudsman.

"We don't find her (Napoles) to be a candidate for being state witness," Morales added.

Among those tagged in the controversy were former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and other legislators.

In 2015, Napoles was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for the illegal detention of her cousin Benhur Luy, who accused her of detaining him in a subdivision in Makati City to prevent him from revealing the PDAF scam.
The Court of Appeals (CA) last week overturned the conviction of Napoles in the illegal detention case "based on reasonable doubt."

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II then revealed that the administration is considering Napoles as a state witness in the re-investigation of the pork barrel scam -- a plan that her camp welcomed.

Morales said that though the justice department is free to re-investigate the scam, it is the Sandiganbayan which will have the last say on getting Napoles as a state witness.

"Janet Napoles has been already charged and indicted in court so it's the court which is the ultimate authority to consider whether or not she can be considered as state witness," she said.

Morales added a re-investigation is not necessary if only to find out if there are other personalities involved in the scam because the a separate probe by the Ombudsman is still ongoing.