The Office of the Ombudsman will block any moves to turn Janet Lim Napoles into a state witness in the planned reinvestigation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), according to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“As far as the prosecution is concerned, [Napoles] is one of the principal alleged malefactors. Certainly the OSP (Office of the Special Prosecutor) will block any attempt to make her state witness,” Morales told reporters on Tuesday, May 16.
Last week, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will conduct a new investigation into the PDAF, also referred to as the pork barrel scam. Napoles, the supposed mastermind of the operation, is being considered as a state witness.
While the DOJ has discretion to conduct a new probe into the PDAF case, Morales maintained that it is her office, not the DOJ, which has the final say on whether or not to recommend Napoles as a state witness.
“It is the OSP which will consider whether or not [Napoles] will be a state witness and it’s going to be the court who will finally approve whether or not she is going to be state witness,” Morales clarified.
“We don’t find her (Napoles) to be a candidate for being state witness,” she added.
Last week, Napoles’s lawyer, Stephen David, said he has met with Aguirre to discuss the possibility of turning her into a state witness.
David said they requested the DOJ to give Napoles “proper security” if the proposition passes, adding that she is ready to name “higher” officials involved in the multi-billion peso scam.
Sought for comments on the reported “exploratory talks” between the DOJ and Napoles’s camp, Morales responded: “I’m not bothered at all. We are confident of our position.”
In 2014, Morales indicted Napoles of plunder, malversation, graft and direct bribery charges in connection with the scam. Her office denied Napoles’s request to become a state witness, saying that the latter is the “most guilty.”
Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile were also charged alongside Napoles in connection with the anomaly. Enrile is currently out on bail, while the other two remain incarcerated.
“We are not bothered, we’re not concerned at all by whatever they say about whether or not there is a pending agreement or what is modus vivendi between Napoles and the DOJ,” Morales told reporters.
The Ombudsman also maintained that her office is not bound by the DOJ’s findings.
“I don’t know what the DOJ wants to reinvestigate, whether they want to reinvestigate cases filed in court or reinvestigate cases already investigated by us. It’s up to them if they wish to reinvestigate,” Morales said.
She went on to say, “But as I said, we are not bound by any findings over cases over which the Ombudsman has the final authority to determine whether or not there is probable cause.”
Also on Tuesday, Napoles was transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BMJP) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after the Court of Appeals acquitted her serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
She was previously detained at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong.