By Camille Diola (philstar.com) |
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (center) appears before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for the "pork barrel" scam inquiry on Thursday, March 6, 2014. Beside her are Technology Resource Center Dennis Cunanan (right) and lead whistle-blower Benhur Luy (left). Senate staff
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is still hoping that businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles will admit her role in the pork barrel scam and turn a state witness.
"We are still hoping that Mrs. Napoles would tell all because we know that she is, or she is probably, the key to unlocking the whole truth if and when she decides to tell the truth," De Lima said answering Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the scam on Thursday morning.
She explained that even principal whistleblower Benhur Luy had admitted that he does not know everything in the scam and that several personalities directly transacted with Napoles.
The charges filed by the government against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and other officials allegedly involved in the scam are based heavily on Luy's affidavit.
"Nanggaling na rin ho kay Benhur din na meron daw pong iba na dumidiretso kay Mrs. Napoles at hindi dumadaan sa kanya. So ang ibig pong sabihin doon, ang lahat ng talagang may alam sa lahat ng ito insofar as her transactions are concerned is Mrs. Mapoles herself," she said.
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Escudero grilled De Lima why the government still keeps Napoles in a relatively comfortable, well-secured cell at the Fort Sto. Domingo and spends heavily for her detention.
The senator suggested that Napoles may even be forced to talk if she is transferred to a regular jail.
"Security against who? Wala naman siyang tinuro, wala naman siyang inamin. At sa ngayon wala siyang balak umamin ... I presume there are security features in our regular jails, ma'am. Equal protection [rule] would dictate that unless she's willing to talk, I guess then we should provide adequate security," Escudero insisted.
To this De Lima answered, "Huwag na po tayong magmadali ngayon."
"Of course may gastos ang gobyerno. Alam naman ho kung magkano ang gastos sa gobyerno. Pero ho sa ganitong pagkakataong napakalaking kasi, this is bigger than all of us. Siguro secondary na lang po ang consideration na yon na gumagastos ang gobyerno sa pagse-secure sa kanya doon sa ultimate end na posible nga na sa pamamagitan ni Mrs Napoles ay malalaman natin ang buong katotohanan," she explained.
De Lima recalled that she almost proposed the transfer of Napoles to a regular jail after she repeatedly claimed innocence during a previous hearing of the Senate committee last November 2013.
"I was already entertaining the thought of proposing to have her transferred to a regular jail facility but on deeper thought, it's not as easy as that, it's not an easy decision to make," she said.
She said that the justice department is still hoping that Napoles will eventually decide to divulge information to investigators or before the court.
"What if she decides to tell all? Without strings attached, meaning, without asking for immunity, but maybe asking for other concessions outside immunity?" De Lima said.
She also admitted that granting Napoles immunity through admission to the Witness Protection Program would be "contentious" and "debatable."
"Nase-secure na naman siya e. So the first object of the WPP is to secure the applicant. But that is why we have to study that carefully. We cannot just say yes we're willing," the justice secretary said.
Escudero pointed out that the Philippine National Police even deploys decoy vehicles for Napoles whenever she needs to see the doctor or attend hearings.
"Talo pa niya si Pangulong Aquino, may decoy convoy. Sa [State of the Nation Address] lang yata n'ya yun ginagawa, na may decoy vehicle," Escudero said.