Napoles deserves to be heard despite removal from WPP: Calida

Solicitor General Jose Calida said Thursday alleged pork barrel mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles, still deserves to be heard if she has evidence tagging those involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), even though her provisional coverage under the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) has been terminated.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has issued a letter to Napoles through her counsel, notifying of the termination of her provisional coverage under the Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program (WPSBP), effective May 25.

Calida, however, said he believes that if Napoles has adequate information, backed up by evidence, to reveal the involvement of other politicians in the PDAF and DAP issues, she should be allowed to speak out.

“That is the prerogative and discretion of SOJ (Secretary of Justice) because the WPP is under the DOJ (Department of Justice). However if Janet Napoles has evidence to link other recipients of DAP and PDAF, why do we not listen to her?” Calida said in a TV interview.

He added that only investigations on the alleged involvement of “enemies of the former president” Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, such as former senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Juan Ponce Enrile, were indicted.

Calida explained that the government should listen not only to Napoles but “anybody else who has the goods against these politicians.”

Napoles was admitted to the program on Feb. 27, wherein the DOJ granted her security protection for witness duty only for a period not exceeding 90 days, said Guevarra.

Napoles had requested to be admitted into the WPP of the DOJ due to alleged threats to her personal security, specifically requesting protection by way of transfer from her place of detention at Camp Bagong Diwa.

“Considering the denial of Napoles’ urgent motion for transfer of custody to the DOJ WPSBP by the 1st, 3rd and 5th Divisions of the Sandiganbayan, the main purpose of which Napoles had sought admission into WPSBP, has become moot and academic,” Guevarra said in a statement.

“As there has been no further claim of threats to her personal security inside the Camp Bagong Diwa, the Secretary of Justice has found no reason to extend further Napoles’ provisional coverage under WPP,” he noted.

Under Republic Act (RA) No. 6981 or the Witness Protection Act, before a person is admitted into the WPP, he or she shall execute a sworn statement describing in detail the manner in which the offense was committed and his or her participation.

Among the requirements of the law for a WPP applicant to qualify as state witness is that he or she must be the least guilty of the alleged crime committed.

Former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II confirmed Napoles’ admission into the WPP after she executed on Feb. 27 an affidavit that provided more details on the misuse of the PDAF.

Napoles had reportedly submitted an affidavit implicating several lawmakers and former executive officials, which reportedly included former budget secretary Florencio Abad.

The affidavit of Napoles is being reviewed by the justice department for possible filing of additional cases against more government officials in relation to the PDAF scam.

The DOJ, however, did not release her affidavit due to confidentiality under RA 6981.

Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, earlier said that she is open to becoming a state witness in the new PDAF cases being investigated by the DOJ.

Napoles is detained at a detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, after a legal intervention of Calida paved the way for her acquittal by the Court of Appeals in May last year.

She spent only two years at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City following a guilty verdict meted out to her by a Makati City judge for the serious illegal detention of her cousin Benhur Luy, the primary whistleblower in the scam.

Napoles has previously filed several petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to stop her indictment in the PDAF cases, but these were all dismissed. PNA