Napoles appears ‘most guilty’ in pork barrel scam

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

CHANCES of turning Janet Napoles into state witness in the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds are dim at this point.

Based on evidence gathered from whistleblowers, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday Napoles is the center of the corruption scheme, where she allegedly instructed the creation of non-government organizations (NGOs) which will part with the lawmaker’s pork barrel allocation.

"We cannot discount at this point the possibility of having her as a state witness but…the lawmakers involved allegedly had dealings with her. If you file a plunder case with her today, she is a co-conspirator,” she told reporters.

Under the Rules of Court, one of the five requirements before an accused can be considered state witness is that he/she must not appear to be the most guilty.

If Napoles is charged in court, her lawyer must file a motion for discharge of Napoles as a state witness, according to Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The court will then proceed to conduct a hearing where witnesses have to testify in support of the discharge.

Santiago said the discharge of Napoles to be state witness depend on her actual and individual participation in the commission of plunder, as well as the gravity or nature of the acts committed by Napoles compared to those of her co-accused.

She said Napoles' co-accused could be the five senators and 23 congressmen named by whistleblowers who are now under the Department of Justice's Witness Protection Program.

Citing the Supreme Court in Flores v. Sandiganbayan, Santiago said the tribunal refused in 1983 the discharge because the accused appeared to be the most guilty and the mastermind in the bank robbery which was done in public.

"It appears that Napoles was the mastermind, so she is the most guilty. Further, it appears that many persons in her syndicate know of the conspiracy to plunder, so her discharge is not absolutely necessary," said Santiago, a former trial court judge.

Meanwhile, de Lima said they have not received reports that there are threats to Napoles’ life. Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday night in exchange for ensuring her safety while under detention.

"We have to validate it…but in the realm of possibility, it's possible," she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation is still looking for Napoles’ brother Reynald Lim, her co-accused in the alleged serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy. The government is offering P5-million reward for information leading to his arrest. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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