By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles will become state witness only for the new cases that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will file.
“If she becomes state witness, she will not be charged in the new cases to be filed,” said Aguirre.
The Justice secretary had earlier confirmed that Napoles has been placed provisionally under the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP). He said the sworn statements that she had submitted are now being evaluated, but declined to reveal the contents of her sworn affidavits.
Napoles is currently facing multiple charges, including plunder and graft, before the Sandiganbayan over her involvement in the multi-billion peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Plea bargain deal?
With the cases being prosecuted by the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor, Aguirre said he is unsure if Napoles could still arrange for plea bargain deal for her cases at the Sandiganbayan.
“I think it might be too late for that,” he admitted.
“I don’t know the status of the cases there in the Sandiganbayan, if that is still feasible,” Aguirre pointed out in relation to the plea bargain.
If the Ombudsman agrees to a plea bargain deal with Napoles, she will be allowed to plead guilty to a less serious charge, or to one of the several charges, in return for the dismissal of other charges. She may also plead guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.
President keeps safe distance
Meanwhile, President Duterte is keeping a safe distance from the DOJ’s move to place Napoles under the government’s witness protection program.
The President said he has left that to the discretion of Aguirre.
“Si Vit Aguirre –sabik o, ‘bakit nasabitna naman siya dito kay Napoles?’ Eh diskarte ‘yan niya eh (Vit Aguirre, I said why was he involved in the issue of Napoles? Well, that’s up to his strategy),” Duterte said during an assembly of supporters at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City last Wednesday night.
‘To tell all’
Aguirre, in a press conference early this week, defended the provisional admission of Napoles under the state’s witness protection program, saying she has agreed to “tell all” about the pork barrel scam. (With reports from Genalyn Kabiling)
Read more: Napoles to ‘tell all’ — Aguirre