NAPOLES UPDATE | No book on pork 'sharing,' says lawyer; 'risks' to life stem from 'floated lies'
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - The counsel of Janet Lim Napoles has scoffed at claims that the controversial businesswoman in hiding keeps a "book" on her sharing scheme with lawmakers in the pork-barrel scam, and expressed concern that the floating of such "fantastic" information is precisely what's discouraging Napoles from surfacing.
"I don't know where he is getting his information," said lawyer Lorna Kapunan, "but unlike him I don't dwell in the realm of speculation." She was referring to the remarks of Levi Baligod, counsel of nine whistleblowers against Napoles, that it would be better for Napoles to yield to authorities because her life "is at risk" the longer she stays in hiding. Baligod hinted in a TV interview Monday that Napoles' life could be under threat from people who may be damned Napoles' "book" of records.
Kapunan said such "fantastic stories that surface every day" come from "whoever wants to use her as a scapegoat."
Kapunan said they had every intention to cooperate in the NBI fact-finding investigation of how a group, with Napoles as alleged brains, had diverted to bogus non-government organizations some P10 billion in Priority Development Assistance (PDAF) allocations of lawmakers over several years. But then Napoles was thrust into circumstances that now make it increasingly impossible for her to simply surface, said Kapunan. The lawyer reiterated that she does not know her client's whereabouts.
Discouraging Janet from surfacing
Kapunan said among the factors now keeping Napoles from surfacing are:
- the floating of the information that any concerned person can effect a "citizen's arrest" on Napoles;
- the floating of information that a bounty of P1 million to P5 million could be put out for her arrest; and
- that Napoles has a "private army" and is "armed and dangerous."
These constitute information that could either encourage vigilantism or make it easier for any one to simply say Napoles had to be put down because she posed a threat to public safety.
Napoles has been declared a "most wanted" fugitive - her bank accounts have been frozen and her passport has been cancelled. The NBI says that if she doesn't surface, she will have waived her right to explain to the fact-finding panel, Kapunan noted.
But a fact-finding panel is supposed to simply establish what happened in a case based on testimonies and initial evidence, Kapunan said, and not to "make conclusions." In the case of her client, however, the lawyer said the floating all sorts of information is effectively setting up Napoles for a conviction.
Kapunnan stressed that the case for which Napoles has been declared a fugitive is not even the pork barrel scam, but that for a charge of illegal detention. That accusation was brought against her and her brother by the main whistle-blower in the PDAF scam, Benhur Luy Lim, a relative who claimed Napoles had him and several others head various bogus NGOs to which pork barrel funds were diverted, ostensibly for nonexistent or bloated projects. Supposedly, this was made possible with connivance or knowledge of some lawmakers or their staff; and by corrupt contacts in the government implementing agencies that allowed the NGOs to take over entire projects.
Benhur ran to the NBI for help when, his family claimed, Napoles and her brother detained him in an effort to prevent him from setting up a rival, similar racket.