MANILA, Philippines — There is no way the person who supposedly benefited the most from the theft of up to P10 billion in congressional pork barrel funds can be considered the least guilty, much less turn state witness, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Friday.
“Paano nangyari na ‘yung pinakamalaki ang nakulimbat sa pork barrel, na mas malaki pa sa bawat politiko — dahil sa lahat nu’ng congressman at senador na kanyang kasabwat ay may hati siya — ay gagawing state witness (How can it happen that the person who stole the most from the pork barrel, more than any politician — since she had a share from all the congressmen and senators she colluded with — will be made a state witness)?” Pangilinan asked.
The senator was reacting to suggestions from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that Janet Lim Napoles, who is accused of engineering the scam that saw huge sums from the defunct Priority Development Assistance Fund funneled off through bogus nongovernmental organizations.
Aguirre broached the possibility as Napoles was acquitted by the Court of Appeals on serious illegal detention charges for which she had originally been sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or up to 40 years. The acquittal came after Solicitor General Jose Calida sided with her and said she had been wrongfully convicted.
Despite her acquittal, Napoles remains charged before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in multiple plunder cases, along with several incumbent and former lawmakers.
Despite Aguirre’s opinion, Pangilinan said: “Umaasa pa rin tayo na hindi ito papayagan ng korte, na siyang may huling pasya kung maari bang gawing state witness ang isang akusado o hindi (We remain hopeful that this will not be allowed by the court, which has the final say on whether an accused can turn state witness or not).”
Explaining his confidence in the court, Pangilinan said allowing Napoles to be a state witness, a move that would effectively clear her of the plunder charges, would make the justice system a laughingstock.
Pangilinan said the amount of stolen pork barrel funds Napoles would have pocketed made her a “mastermind,” thus “the court cannot allow her to be cleared.”