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Napoles can invoke right vs self-incrimination - Guingona
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles can invoke her right against self-incrimination when she faces the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation into the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Senator Teofisto Guingona said on Tuesday.

The committee, which Guingona chairs, has subpoenaed both Napoles, who is accused of colluding with lawmakers and other government officials to funnel huge sums from the Priority Development Assistance Fund into bogus nongovernmental organizations, and former employees who blew the whistle on her operations, setting the stage for a confrontation at the panel’s hearing on November 7.

The Makati regional trial court, which is hearing a serious illegal detention case filed against Napoles by Benhur Luy, the government’s star witness against her, has given its permission for her to face the Blue Ribbon committee.

For her part, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expressed misgivings about Napoles’ scheduled appearance before the committee and appealed to the Senate not to grant the businesswoman any form of immunity in exchange for her testimony.

De Lima also said she is studying the possibility of having the passports of persons accused of involvement in the pork barrel scam but who have left the country revoked to force them to return.

Explaining how Napoles may invoke her right against incriminating herself, Guingona said: “Every time you ask a question, she can invoke her right. But it has to be something you can incriminate her (with). It cannot be like, ‘What is your name?’ and then I invoke my right. Hindi naman puwede iyon. May (That cannot be allowed. There are) limitation(s).”

He stressed said that Napoles cannot be cited for contempt for invoking her rights under the Constitution.

While Napoles’ camp may ask for an executive session, Guingona said he would not agree to any requests made during the public hearing “because that’s precisely the point, para malaman ang katotohanan at para malaman kung ano ang nangyari (to know the truth and what really happened).”

He also assured the Napoles camp that the investigation would be fair.  “We’ll just call her and listen to her. Let’s see what she has to say. The best assurance is that she sees we are fair during the trial,” Guingona said.

“On November 7, Mrs. Napoles will be given the opportunity to come clean and speak the truth. The Filipino people will be watching. We will be ready,” he said.

Meanwhile, De Lima said any form of immunity the Senate may grant Napoles in exchange for waiving her right against self-incrimination could affect the charges against her.

Napoles is among the first batch of 38 respondents accused of plunder or malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman for the pork barrel scam.

She has also been implicated to the earlier fertilizer fund and Malampaya Fund scams.

De Lima said she hoped “the Senate and the committee is not minded to be granting any form of immunity at this point to Mrs. Napoles” since this would bar any self-incriminatory statement she might make from being used as evidence against her.

“If Mrs. Napoles would be telling the truth and nothing but the whole truth, then she should be encouraged to fully cooperate and speak out. But I doubt if she can and will do so without an offer or assurance of immunity because, surely, truth-telling on her part would be self-incrimination,” De Lima said.

“On the other hand, if her intention is simply to mislead, muddle and obfuscate the whole matter of the PDAF scam, then we don't want her in that proceedings. The Senate should not and must never allow a charade to be foisted upon the general public,” she added.

De Lima also said she is considering invoking the Philippine Passport Act and ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the passports of suspects in the pork barrel scam who went abroad before the cases were filed.

Among them are Jessica Lucille Reyes, former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ruby Tuason, the social secretary of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada when he was president.