By Ben R. Rosario
The decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to tap businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to stand as state witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam she allegedly engineered drew more flak from opposition lawmakers and a Catholic bishop on Saturday.
In separate statements, members of the Makabayan and Magnificent Seven, minority groups unrecognized by the House of Representatives, anticipated Napoles to be utilized in the Duterte administration’s alleged bid to silence the political opposition.
But beyond this suspicion, opposition lawmakers stressed that putting Napoles into the government Witness Protection Program (WPP) and using her as state witness is a clear mockery of the country’s justice system.
Napoles has been accused of plunder and graft and corruption after evidence point to her as the mastermind of the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
Mockery of justice system
“The liberation of Napoles as the principal accused in the “mother of all scams” in order to be awarded a stellar role as state witness is a mockery of the justice system,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, head of the Magnificent Seven.
Lagman added: “Since Napoles is indicted as the brains in various plunder cases consequent to the PDAF scam, she does not qualify to become a state witness.”
Makabayan Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna Partylist criticized as “wrong and unjust to place a suspected principal plunderer under a special protection by the justice department.”
He said the decision for leniency on Napoles was clearly aimed at making her as a weapon “to retaliate against” political critics and enemies of the Duterte administration.
Napoles can also be utilized to threaten even administration allies with trump up charges in order to make them toe the line
“Janet Napoles should not be allowed to do a Kerwin Espinosa,” he said, referring to confessed druglord, who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima, but was recently absolved of drug charges by the justice department.
For his part, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said the DOJ has been pursuing a “fake war on drugs to fake justice.”
“This all goes to show that the Dutere government with its stand tough on drugs and corruption was all for the show and it doesn’t intend to bring genuine justice,” he stated.
In a statement, Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano said: “It is unfortunate how skewed justice has become before the eyes of the very institution mandated to uphold and protect it. The most guilty now becomes the state witness.”
He added: “The government’s provision of witness protection for Janet Lim Napoles would now afford her means to just point and put blame on anyone as has been the habit of this administration.”
Bishop slams gov’t decisions
Balanga, Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos expressed disappointment over the dismissal of drug-related charges against high-profile drug personalities and placing Napoles under the WPP.
Santos said that the decisions of the DOJ were “questionable and suspicious.”
“One, how can three very known, confessed drug lords be absolved? With this,‘war on drugs’ becomes joke. It is only the poor, the one ordinary, small fish are convicted. A disgusting decision, dishonorable action. Justice is not served,” said Santos.
Santos noted that confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and businessman Peter Lim, including other drug personalities, were recently cleared by the DOJ panel of the drug complaint from the drug case they were implicated.
“Second, how can a mother and mastermind of all scams be given a provisional witness protection? What she did was theft at the largest scale. There was graft and corruption, conspiracy to steal people’s money, and because of her many people suffered especially the poor,” said Santos, referring to Napoles.
“If she really wanted to help, she should right from start revealed everything. Hiding something undermines her sincerity. For that, she loses her moral credibility,” added Santos.
Palace steers clear of Napoles
With the flak received over the decision to temporarily place Napoles under WPP, Malacañang said that President Duterte did not play a role in the DOJ decision.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II confirmed that the supposed pork barrel scam mastermind has been placed under the provisional coverage of the WPP.
Roque, in a radio interview Friday evening, said the President has no time to micromanage the agencies under the Executive Branch as he is busy governing the entire country.
“The President is not interfering with every issue in the departments. Otherwise, he will not have time to run the country anymore,” Roque said in the radio interview.
Roque said that since there is a lawful process to be followed, the Palace is leaving the matter at the hands of the DOJ.
“The Palace is leaving the decision of placing Napoles under the WPP to the prosecutors and to Justice Secretary Aguirre,” he said. (With reports from Analou de Vera and Argyll B. Geducos)
Tags: DOJ, Duterte administration, Edcel Lagman, graft and corruption, Janet Lim Napoles, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, justice system, opposition lawmakers, pork barrel scam, President Duterte, Solons bishop assail decision to tap Napoles as state witness, The Department of Justice, Witness Protection, Witness Protection Program