Should Janet Napoles, the alleged “pork barrel mastermind,” be allowed to turn state witness?
This question was the topic of spirited debates in some legal quarters in the Philippines after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he plans to make the embattled Napoles a prosecution witness.
Napoles is the principal accused in the multi-million pork barrel scam which caused, among others, the detention of two senators – Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada – for three years now.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales opposed the plan, vowing to block the move if Aguirre pushes through with it.
Later, Aguirre clarified that Napoles can be made a government witness only in new cases to be filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) but not in the cases pending before the Sandiganbayan.
He assured that her becoming a state witness will not adversely affect her pending plunder cases, which are non-bailable, before the Sandiganbayan.” Aguirre said the Ombudsman can oppose a move to make Napoles a government witness only in the pending cases.
He said that Napoles would remain in detention even if she becomes a state witness in the reinvestigation of cases regarding PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), also known as “pork barrel.”
Asked if Napoles could qualify as state witness in the cases that could arise from the reinvestigation, Aguirre said it would depend on what she has to say. He believes Napoles could be a credible government witness if she could substantiate her testimonies with evidence.
Aguirre said that for Napoles to become a state witness, she will have to meet the qualifications set by law: She should not be the most guilty of the crimes and her testimony must be indispensable to the cases to stand.
He pointed out that in cases of plunder or corruption involving a government official and a private individual, the former is considered the most guilty as per a ruling by the Supreme Court. “The government official is to be considered as most guilty because he is taking advantage of his public position.”
From our standpoint, we see merits in Aguirre’s move to make Napoles a state witness. This would enable the DOJ to prosecute other lawmakers involved in the scam.
We believe there are more lawmakers involved in the systematic PDAF plunder done through bogus NGOs set up by Napoles. Earlier news reports had it several congressmen also dipped their fingers in the PDAF pie. These robbers in barong Tagalog should also be put behind bars.
We believe that Aguirre was correct when he said the PDAF cases pending in the Sandiganbayan would not be adversely affected if Napoles becomes a state witness.
Aguirre’s move could result in a win-win situation for the government.