MANILA, Philippines — Janet Lim Napoles is seeking to be transferred to the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation after the Court of Appeals absolved her of serious illegal detention charges.
At the same time, Senator Risa Hontiveros warned that government plans to turn Napoles, who is accused of engineering the pork barrel scam, into a state witness against officials involved in the multi-billion pesos scandal “is an attempt to turn her into a political weapon to harass members of the political opposition.”
Despite her acquittal, Napoles, who is jailed at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, cannot be released yet because she is facing multiple plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan over the pork barrel scam.
Napoles was sentenced to reclusion perpetua for detaining her relative and main pork barrel scam witness Benhur Luy. Her brother and co-accused, Reynaldo Lim, remains at large.
But soon after the Duterte administration took over, Solicitor Jose Calida moved to have Napoles cleared, saying her conviction was wrong.
Her lawyer, Stephen David, explained that Napoles should be transferred because only convicts are detained at jails run by the Bureau of Corrections.
He also said that their request to place her in the custody of the NBI stemmed from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s statement that she may be made a state witness in the planned re-investigation of the anomalous use of the defunct Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel funds, of lawmakers.
David pointed out that even the Bucor has written the courts seeking advice on where Napoles should be held.
Hontiveros said turning Napoles into a state witness would be “a travesty of justice” and “glorifying a villain as a hero.”
“Napoles is not a hero. She is a criminal mastermind who orchestrated one of the biggest multi-billion scams in recent history,” she said.
“But beyond this, I am afraid that the plan to turn Napoles into a state witness is an attempt to turn her into a political weapon to harass members of the political opposition,” Hontiveros added as she urged the Duterte administration not to “sacrifice the people’s pursuit for truth and justice to serve its lust for political vindictiveness.”
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