Legal, political issues in Napoles witness move

Published March 22, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


The legal issue involved in the move to make Janet Napoles a state witness in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam involving so many senators and congressman is this: If she is  indeed the brains and the most guilty in the scam, then she cannot possibly be made a state witness.

It has long been claimed that it was she who planned the whole scam, with her group getting a percentage of the millions in government funds  released as the legislators’ pork barrel  to various non-government organizations (NGOs) for various fake projects. The NGOs did get some of the funds, but millions were apparently  retained by the legislators.

She would indeed be the perfect witness against the accused legislators – if she could turn state witness.  But if she was the mastermind of the scam and, therefore,  the most guilty, she could not be a state witness.

Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II has now come out to say that there is a Supreme Court ruling that  if there are two accused with almost  the same level of guilt  – one who committed plunder and the other as instigator – it is the instigator who is considered most guilty. In a recent interview, Secretary Aguirre  said  Napoles had a “tutor” who helped her set up her bogus NGOs.

During the previous administration, Napoles  submitted to the DOJ a list of legislators she had allegedly dealt with – a dozen senators and about 100 congressmen – but only three senators got to be detained, leading to charges of “selective justice” by that administration. President Duterte had this as one of his campaign issues in the presidential election of 2016.

If Secretary Aguirre succeeds in using Napoles as a state witness, he said, it will be only for new cases involving misuse of the Malampaya Fund. She will remain accused in the PDAF cases already filed.

Still, opposition leaders oppose the move to make Napoles a state witness in the Malampaya or in any other case. They suspect a political reason.  She has reportedly named several opposition senators in one affidavit, senators who are seen as the core of the anti-administration opposition in the Senate which may play a critical role in  the coming  Constituent Assembly as well as in the impeachment of  Chief Justice Maria Lourdes  Sereno.

There is indeed this intermingling of legal and political issues and implications in the Napoles case. There is basis for the suspicions, but there is also the desire for  justice  in the pork barrel scam which has eluded us all these many years.